I’m in Quebec City for the next few days. I’m here for two of my best friends who are being married at the Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame this evening. I won’t have much free time to write this weekend, so I’ll be sharing some excerpts from Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way. Barron offers beautiful and arresting reflections. The excerpt I’m sharing today is on “where to find refuge:”
Jesus blithely tells his disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). In those words, a new world opens up. This command has nothing to do with the dualism of Greek philosophy whereby one is encouraged to eschew the goods of the body in order to release the soul. Jews simply didn’t think that way. When Jesus speaks of “killing the body,” he means the elimination of the entire person, the destruction of mind, muscle, imagination, and action, the total loss of self. And he says that we shouldn’t worry about those who can do only that! What Jesus implies is that he has opened for his followers a new depth of existence, a new center, that cannot be touched even when the whole of what we customarily call the “self” has been destroyed. Through the power of his being, he has linked us to the creative source of all existence, the divine love which transcends the evanescence of space and time. And in that “place,” loved in the Spirit by the Father and the Son, we are safe—even from those who would kill the body.
But this means that our perspective can and must change (metanoia). Most of us spend most of our lives defending ourselves against assaults on the “body,” keen, almost every waking moment, to protect our psyches, our emotions, our fortunes, our health, our reputations. But Jesus is telling us that we shouldn’t orient our lives that way (“Don’t be afraid of those who can only attack those trivial goods”). When we do that, we warp ourselves, turning our lives defensively inward, living in a very small spiritual space. But when we live out of the divine center, we breathe the air of real spiritual freedom. No longer cramped fearfully around the “body,” we can move into the wide expanse of the divine will, following God however he prompts us. And this state of affairs, this great soul, is … simultaneously alluring in its beauty and terrifying in its demand.
“Either you life is about Jesus and his mission or it is about you.”