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An “Embarrassing Kind of Love”

I continue to consider it a shame that I have only begun to get acquainted with Brennan Manning now that he has passed away.  I am finding him to be a remarkable writer and thinker.  Even though at times Manning’s spirituality seems quite different from my own and, on occasion, I even find myself disagreeing with how he puts this or that, he quite stubbornly holds the reality of grace before the reader in an extraordinary and compelling way.  Here are a few memorable quotes containing plenty to ponder from my reading of The Ragamuffin Gospel this evening.

First, on the challenge of accepting the “demanding love” of God that beckons us near:

For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change.  When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” he assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way.  These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus.  He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship.  He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.  He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and betrayal would sap our spirits; that the day would come when faith would no longer offer any drive, reassurance, or comfort; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress; that we would echo the cry of Teresa of Avila: “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”

On understanding ourselves and learning to see:

A person, in a real sense, is what he or she sees.  And seeing depends on our eyes.  Jesus uses the metaphor of the eyes more often than that of the mind or the will.  The old proverb, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” contains a profound truth.  Our eyes reveal whether our souls are spacious or cramped, hospitable or critical, compassionate or judgmental.  The way we see other people is usually the way we see ourselves.  If we have made peace with our flawed humanity and embraced our ragamuffin identity, we are able to tolerate in others what was previously unacceptable in ourselves.

On whether or not we really believe that a future of Easter resurrection lies ahead of us and the nature of Christian proclamation:

Or do we?  Many laypeople have remarked to me that from priests and ministers today they hear just about everything but proclamation of the Good News of the kingdom.  They hear about race, pollution, war, abortion, ecology, and myriad other moral problems.  None of them prevents proclamation, but not a single one is an adequate substitute for issuing invitations to the banquet.  Are we hesitant to commit ourselves to the role an eschatological herald because we’re no longer sure that we believe in that role—another way of saying that we never really did believe it?  Maybe we think such a role isn’t relevant, that people won’t take an eschatological herald seriously.  To really be a disciple of Jesus, one must be as committed to the message of the kingdom as He was, and to preach it whether or not the audience finds it relevant.

Finally, on the “embarrassing” love of a father for his son in the parable of the prodigal son and our inability/unwillingness to plumb the depths of its meaning and implications:

No, the love of our God isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way He expects our love to be.  Not only does He require that we accept His inexplicable, embarrassing kind of love; but once we’ve accepted it, He expects us to behave the same way with others.  I suppose I could live, if I had to, with a God whose love for us is embarrassing, but the thought that I’ve got to act that way with other people—that’s a bit too much to swallow.

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