Here is some sound advice from our Christian spiritual tradition. “If you want to advance in the spiritual life and the life of faith then love what Christ loved from the cross and disdain what Christ disdained from the cross.”
It is on the cross that Simeon’s words in today’s gospel (Lk. 2:22-40) reach their fulfillment. The innocent child is revealed as the man of sorrows and the “Christ of the Lord” who takes on the weight of sin that we might know salvation.
Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:14-18)
This is the salvation which God prepared in the sight of every people – Christ on the cross – and it continues to be a sign of contradiction and a sign of salvation to our world today.
What did Christ disdain from the cross? He disdained the lure of money, of power, of popularity and the ever present temptation to save oneself and all costs. What did Christ love from the cross? The will of the Father – that is all he had and it is all he wanted.
If we learn to disdain what Christ disdained and love what Christ loved then we develop what the Christian spiritual tradition terms “detachment”. Detachment is neither indifference nor ambivalence. Both of these are kind of a negative “talk to the hand, I really don’t care” approach to life. Detachment denies neither the energies nor the relationships of life rather it embraces them and rightly orders them.
Fr. Robert Barron in his “Untold Blessings” series reflects on this sense of detachment and uses the Beatitudes as a way of recognizing all the things that we attach ourselves to and thereby become addicted to. Here are just a couple of beatitudes from the sixth chapter of Luke for consideration in this regard.
Blessed are you poor… How easily do we attach ourselves to material things? We want the right house, the right bank account, the right toys to play with and our society tells us we should have these things – for ourselves and for those we love. Now, look at the cross. What did Christ have on the cross? Nothing, all he had was the knowledge of doing the will of the Father and that was enough for Jesus. Things are things – they are neither bad nor good in and of themselves – sometimes we will have things sometimes we won’t. It doesn’t matter. As we gain detachment we find joy not in things but in relationship with God and in doing his will.
Blessed are you when men hate you… Here is a tricky one. How easy it is to become addicted to approval. We all want to be liked, we want to be accepted and belong. But again, look at the cross – Jesus was hated; he was mocked and seen as a common criminal. The same crowds that sang hosannas and waved palm branches when he entered Jerusalem were the ones that yelled “Crucify him!” to Pilate. To Jesus it did not matter. He loved just the same. He was detached from the need for the approval of others. He was focused on the will of the Father. Neither praise nor disdain lessened the love of Christ. There are times when we will be praised and times when we will be mocked or even condemned. There are times we will succeed and times we will fail. If we develop detachment it will not matter what time and situation we find ourselves in we will love just the same.
How do we gain this spiritual sense of detachment? Do we isolate ourselves from others or do we repress all our feelings? No, that is not the Christian way. We look to Christ and we keep Christ at the center of our lives – just as Simeon did. Even though he did not yet know him, Simeon awaited the coming Messiah. He held that hope and that promise in his heart. Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel…
Love what Christ loved from the cross, disdain what Christ disdained from the cross.