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The self-emptying love of God

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There is a beautiful passage in Scripture about the self-emptying love of God, most clearly seen in Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:7, we read, “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” This month, as we contemplate the mysteries of salvation, it is most appropriate for us to consider the depth of God’s self-emptying love as we gaze on the crucifix.

In Christian theology, this self-emptying love of God is called kenosis, and reveals the nature of God’s activity. The word kenosis is a Greek word which attempts to get at what Jesus gave up in his divine nature in order to assume human nature. In Christ, God literally poured himself out for sinful humanity.

Kenosis is the opposite of clinging or holding on tightly to something or someone and connotes a total letting go on the part of Jesus. In his living and dying, Jesus let go without resistance. He did not cling to his own human life, importance, prestige, material things or a particular relationship. Instead he abandoned all of this in total trust of God the Father for love of all whom He would indwell in every time and place.

As we journey through Holy Week, we are invited by God to walk more closely with Christ, and to make the journey to Calvary and beyond with our Lord. We are invited into this self-emptying love to abandon ourselves to the Father with Jesus. As He speaks his last words from the cross, “I thirst,” and “Father forgive them,” Jesus invites us to let go of all that keeps us from His loving embrace.

In the Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul also says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”(Phil 2:5). This is to say we too are invited to kenosis, a selfemptying that leads to purification and transcendence.

If we are to be of the same mind and heart as Jesus, we need to let go. This is not easy for us in our aggressive western culture which likes to hang on, be safe and look for security in almost everything except our personal relationship with God.

As Lent draws to a close, it is worthwhile to consider if our penances, prayers, fasting and almsgiving have led us to selfemptying love. Through the disciplines of Lent, Our Lord bids us to let go and perhaps to be less full of ourselves.

The paradox of living the Gospel is that if we truly want to live abundantly, true joy is not found in achievements, but rather in being transformed through the emptiness that leads to being filled with the presence of God.

In our contemplation of the cross, and the brutal death that Jesus died as the ransom for sin, let us ponder the love of God which is so great that it abandoned itself to our hands. With great humility and with open hands let us receive that love, a love that heals and transforms, a love that so great and so merciful. As we await His glorious Resurrection, let us remember that emptiness leads to fullness.

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