I never used to be a wailer or fist banger. I didn’t understand what would drive people to do such things. That was before. Before my child’s brain broke. As my son slipped deeper into schizophrenia, I lost parts of myself, too. I lost my balance as I tried to navigate this bewildering maze of new behaviors and medical resources until I felt consumed by a rage and then a wailing cry to God to help me.
Today, the Church honors St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who volunteered to die in place of a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz, thus embodying the teaching of Jesus, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Yet this last and greatest act of St. Maximilian did not emerge from a vacuum; it was the result of a lifetime of being conformed to Christ through prayer and sacrifice. Only by consistently practicing self-denial, by dying to himself and taking up his cross daily, could St. Maximilian have been conformed to Christ to such a degree that he was in that pivotal moment able to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, laying down his life so that another might live.
Editorial Note: This post was originally delivered as a reflection for Palm Sunday on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
“He emptied Himself,” Paul tells us in the second reading from Philippians (2:7). Who “emptied Himself?” “Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “though he was in the form of God.” The Creed explains what this means: in other words, “though He was in the form of God” because he was the “Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father,”—“Christ Jesus” in the “form of God” is that one the Creed speaks of, truly God from all eternity in the permanent bliss and blessedness that belongs to God the Trinity as an eternal exchange of the most intimate love.
An unconventional portrayal of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nellie Edwards’ “Mother of Life” immediately draws the viewer’s gaze to Mary’s face, an expression of stoic serenity. Her glowing visage imparts an inexplicable restfulness; she articulates no rational explanation for her peace, yet her image communicates, in fact imparts, a definitive grace. Eventually, the slope of her mantle and bowed head guide us to the image’s center: the Light of Christ in her womb. We now discover the source of her firm tranquility to be the Christ-Child, whose radiance is almost too bright for our eyes to hold.