Reflection on Arms Stretched Out

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (See Mark 8:27-38, NRSV).

I am sure the title of this blog entry and the Gospel quote might seem a little odd to some. Jesus is calling us to carry our cross, to give up our lives and follow Him. Yet, I titled the blog post as about the arms outstretched.

The mysticism of the Cross is that our God in the Person of Jesus stretched out His arms and embraced us. God’s love is so profound, so complete, that Jesus held nothing back.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Christ carried us within him in love and travail, until the time of his passion. And when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love” (Canticle R Enriching Our Worship 1, p.40).

The contemplative experiences the love of God in such a way, that we know that love is more than a theological thesis. It is known in the depths of our hearts. Contemplation is an encounter with the loving arms of God stretched out, while we embrace that love in whatever comes our way. It will not always come in something warm and fuzzy. It happens because God’s grace has moved within us to stretch our arms to embrace the challenges we are given in the here and now.

Taking up our crosses is about faithfulness. Carrying our crosses is not about being perfect. Carrying our cross is God’s holy love forever outstretched for us to embrace God at any time, any where and in anyone.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 15).

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.100).

Are you ready to carry your cross, knowing that the arms of Jesus are forever outstretched for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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