My Lenten discipline this year to meditate with Julian of Norwich on my crucified Lord has been a profound experience for me. It is deepening my sense of the breadth of God’s love, and with it, God’s persistent—stubborn, insistent—patience. It is reworking my notion of what I am as part of Christ’s body. Frederick Bauerschmidt’s reflection on Julian’s vision brought him to conclude, “To be a ‘theological person’ . . . is to be ‘in Christ,’ to be included in his person by being included in his mission. Christ is not simply ‘the one for whom we now live (and die) but . . . the pattern and archetype of our new vocation’ (TD III, 248). The selves that we are given by God in our mission are selves in which the individual-community antinomy is healed. The mission, the task of discipleship by which one is ‘in Christ,’ is unique to each individual, yet when one receives this unique mission, one is ‘simultaneously de-privatized, socialized, made into a locus and a bearer of community’ (TD III, 271).” Yet, a tension remains “between individual and community [as] the individual . . . must ‘bear witness to the authentic Church of Christ in the face of an environment that mistakenly imagines that it is the Church’ (TD III, 455).” (Bauerschmidt, 168)
When we are incorporated into Christ we become Christ-as-mission. It is a personal assent, an individual decision. It is also a decision arrived at in the context of community, and, it follows, as the ecclesial-Body-as-mission. The tension occurs when the ecclesial body asserts an absolute viewpoint that is not possible for finite being/institution. It is both/and—where Jesus “meets [each] sacramentally in the concrete community of the church.” As Julian of Norwich understands, Jesus “desires that we cleave strongly to the faith of holy church, and find there our dearest mother in solace and true understanding, with the whole community of the blessed” (61.57-59) It is a drama, it is movement, it is living.
And, as we live Christ’s body—individual embodied Christs as ecclesial body of Christ—we live his mission. During Lent we are particularly aware of the action of Jesus on the cross, the wound that remains open until all who will be saved, are. And, to enter is to see as Jesus sees. This Lenten season, my eyes have been drawn to the devastating wound of drug addition—heroin, in particular. The use of heroin is on the rise and it is everywhere—even (likely) where you might not expect. The decision to use a drug is not made in isolation, its effects not confined to the user. All who intersect the world of the user feel the impact. The decision also involves the seller, the producer and all who are complicit by benefiting from the profit thereof, the structures that support it.
Considerable time and energy could be directed to discussing the systemic nature of the drug industry. Right now, in this moment, let us instead draw our attention to the One who cries out in pure love for these wounded ones enveloped in the false reality of escape-by-substance. Let us allow our minds and hearts to be caught up in a Lenten prayer, to know the pain Christ takes on himself for us—all of us—for whom He bleeds, and, perhaps, catch a vision for the mission of Christ to make things right in this world—so that all will be well, all manner of things be well.