Editorial note: This blog is the first in a six-part series featuring our free Lenten resource, "A Scriptural Pilgrimage to Christ Through Lent," written by Lenny DeLorenzo.
In the center of Notre Dame’s campus is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The words “Venite Ad Me Omnes” are engraved on the pedestal beneath the figure of Christ with outstretched arms. This is the Son of God who descended from the Father to become one with us. He went all the way down to the bottom of who and what we are, all the while beckoning: “come to me, everyone.”
It turns out that Jesus has a strange way of welcoming those who do come to him. When the two disciples of John the Baptist start following after Jesus out of curiosity, he meets them with a question about their desire: “What do you seek?” When the rich man comes to him looking for the key to eternal life, Jesus stuns him with a question about his assumptions: “Why do you call me good?” Even as his own disciples, who have followed him everywhere, press closer and closer to learn from him, he makes them confess how they have been tempted to see him: “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
The stable beckoning of “come to me, everyone” contains within it questions that take away our own stability. He is the stability that we seek, which also means that he is the stability we lack. To move towards him is also a movement towards the unveiling of our need for him. Even if we know we need him, we do not know how fully we need him. The only way to discover that is to move towards him. He will show us what we need.
Lent is our journey to the bottom of Christ’s descent to us. We are in the habit of confusing his humility with our progress. He blazes the trail from God to us in his humility, so that we might follow him to his full union with us. He seeks more than we do, and we have to learn how to seek what he seeks: absolute encounter, total intimacy, unguarded presence.
He reaches us at the end of his passion, when he is taken from the cross and laid in the grave. That is the endpoint of our Lenten journeys: to meet him there, in that final place where he went to meet us. He blazed the path of divine humility to take on our humanity; we take steps in discipline throughout Lent to learn how to accept his humility. And when that journey is complete, he promises to take us up into communion with his Father. Between now and then, we are disciples who must learn what we need in order to receive him as he is, because he came for nothing other than to receive us as we are.
Silently inscribed on the base of that pedestal is his constant summons to come to him. Those are the words of his persistent search for us; our Lenten journey is our response to search for him. His persistence means to destabilize us. He will destabilize us with his humility. All along he calls us to stand before him just as we are, fully present, and look upon him as he is, fully present. That is the only way we will ever find the lasting stability we really seek: when we go through the instability of being questioned by him, to reckon with our own desires, assumptions, and temptations. He will assume all of that from us, but we have to give it all to him.
He wants us to risk our presence in his presence.
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