"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: Sacred Disgust (DAY 24)

My youngest sister Jennifer Manzano, USRN
(1st from left) sent me this group picture today.
I am very proud of her bravery, love
and dedication for her patients and team mates.
Today is Day 24 of the 30-day whole community retreat in light of the lockdown.

Two Points Of Departure:

First Point (Kenneth R. Overberg, SJ, "Into the Abyss of Suffering, A Catholic View," St. Anthony Messenger Press 2003)

God does not want people to suffer. This is a resounding claim of Edward Schillebeeckx, OP whose theological insight Kenneth Overberg, SJ highlights in chapter five of his book entitled "Responding to the mystery of suffering." Schillebeeckx says, "Negativity cannot have a cause or a motive in God... Therefore, first of all, we have to say that we are not redeemed thanks to the death of Jesus but despite it." The theologian believes that God cannot require Jesus' death "as compensation for what we make of our history. This sadistic mysticism of suffering is certainly alien to... the most authentic... of the great Christian tradition..." God too must have suffered and must have felt the same disgust as when we watch "The Passion of Christ." Although suffering for a righteous cause can also produce good, Schillebeeckx reckons that there is too much suffering, "a barbarous excess."

I would like to quote at length Fr. Kenneth's homily summing-up what moved Jesus into the abyss of suffering, (Bellarminechapel.org, October 21, 2018)

"Though most of us probably have been taught that Jesus came to suffer and die for our sins, there is another view in the Scriptures and tradition and theology. A view often not emphasized in western Christianity, another view on why God became flesh. Rather than understanding Jesus as a response to original sin and all sin, this view considers Jesus to be God’s first thought—not an afterthought. Jesus is Plan A, not Plan B. God creates all that is in order to share divine life and love with this creation, indeed to become one of us! Just read the opening lines of John’s gospel (and don’t impose Plan B images).

And maybe re-read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, especially the section on love of enemies. Jesus says his God sends rain on the just AND the unjust. This God could not want—demand—the Son’s suffering and death. Jesus’ God is a God of compassion, forgiveness, tenderness, and love. 

In their horror and fear, perhaps Jesus’ disciples and later followers could not sustain his vision, but slipped back into the dominant religion of “violence saves” as they told stories, wrote the scriptures, and developed theologies. We know that Jesus was crucified, but we don’t know why. Perhaps it was because of his message, but maybe not...

Jesus’ God is a God of life and love, of mercy and nonviolence. As Jon Sobrino states, 'It is the love of Jesus (and of God) that saves, not bloodshed. The love of Jesus saves human beings, especially victims; love that stays through to the end, even if it leads to a cross. That is what we call redemption. I think everyone can understand that, with no need for a sacrificial interpretation.'

Who is your God?"

Second Point

Florencio Segura, SJ considers disgust as another passivity that Jesus went through during the Passion. "The disgust, the repugnance, is now something almost physical. That feeling in one who wants to reject the evil that comes but cannot... One must understand why some persons, some humanists, have felt this terrible repugnance. I am thinking of Nietzsche, to whom this scene of Gethsemane was disgusting; for whom it was loathsome to see Christ–the 'Nazarene' as he called Him; a Man, as he said, 'full of dignity'–crawling on the ground, full of sadness, fear, weariness, and disgust. For that reason Nietzsche said that the Gospel was 'stained', of these pages that he called 'dirty'... that is why he said that 'before taking the Gospel one must put on gloves in order not to get stained...'" (F. Segura, SJ, Eight Days of the Spiritual Exercises trans. by Randolph Lumabao, SJ, Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc., 2005, p. 114)

Opening Song

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire. I should make every effort to get inside the Passion, not just staying with external sufferings, but entering into the loneliness, the interior pain of rejection and feeling hated, all the anguish within Jesus.  To realize Jesus loves me so much that he willingly suffers everything for my rejections and my sins make me ask:  What response ought I make? (Spiritual Exercises 197).

Word Of God: (See full text below)

1. Matthew 26:14-25 (The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.)

2. Isaiah 53:10–11 (If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life.)

Questions and Considerations To Ponder:

Here is a schema that Edward Schillebeeckx recommends for our guidance on how to respond to suffering. We use this in light of the crisis that surrounds us. Where do you locate your own response? Each one is different but we all have a share of both weaknesses and strengths.

First, acknowledge the suffering and articulate the agony. "The first step in responding to suffering is simply being truthful, avoiding denial and admitting the pain, horror and [disgust] of the suffering whatever the cause. We must never glorify suffering. Yes, it can lead us to deeper maturity and wisdom, but suffering can also crush the human spirit." (Overberg, p. 101)

Second, trust in God. "Lament allows us to move from silence to speech. It renews and deepens our relationship with God, even as it challenges God. And so it leads naturally to the second element in our response to suffering: trust in God." No matter what happens, stay in conversation with God that moves to ever deepening of one's relationship and renewed trust.  (Overberg, p. 105)

Third, act. "This trust both allows and inspires our action, the third element in our response... Our actions move in three directions: toward other individuals, toward the political and economic structure of society, toward ourselves. Suffering evokes our compassion."  (Overberg, p. 110)

Fourth, stand in awe. We know that it is human reaction to ask why, to search for meaning and reasons for our suffering. We have seen, however, that such efforts often have led to unsatisfying and even problematic perspectives. Suffering remains a mystery, not a problem to be solved. (Overberg, p. 114)

In the Jesuit Sacred Heart Novitiate and Retreat House I am staying, we have two ongoing community initiatives to respond to victims. First, in support of the frontline medical personnel in Tala Hospital our community prepares for them nutritious meals. Second, we do repack goods (rice, canned goods, soap, etc.) for distribution to the poor families.

Prayer Requests:

You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIP) using 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are currently sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Matthew 26:14-25

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
  On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.
  When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”

Isaiah 53:10–11 ·

If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life.

The Lord was pleased
  to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
  he shall see his descendants in a long life,
  and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction
  he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
  and their guilt he shall bear.

Commentary (Credits: universalis.com)

The whole of the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant is read at the liturgy of Good Friday. Today we have only a part, but enough to show that the Servant’s suffering somehow fulfils God’s purposes, brings glory to the Servant and salvation to others. We do not know who the servant originally envisaged by the author was, perhaps the prophet himself, perhaps the people of Israel, suffering in exile in Babylon. But the Word of God also has a fuller meaning. We know from Jesus’ own sayings that he saw himself as the complete fulfilment of these poems: ‘the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many’. He saw his life as one of service and of perfect obedience to the Lord, his Father. He saw his task to be the establishment of the Kingship of God on earth, which would bring salvation to all, and that the opposition to this Kingship would bring him suffering and eventually death. This selfless obedience of Jesus would undo the stubborn disobedience of all humanity, featured in the sin of Adam. It would bring to completion the Lord’s designs for the world and for all creation.