Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Shadows

- a reflection on Psalm 23
by Deacon Paul Rooney

[Note: I tend to contribute "reflections" more than scripture studies. -Paul.]

We have all been intrigued and fascinated with “shadows” even before we reached the age of reason.  Surely there does not exist on our planet someone who has not been entertained by shadow puppets?  Probably it is a parent or sibling who first projects a shadow puppet of a rabbit or dog onto the wall for the entertainment of an infant or young child.  It is now quite an art, with websites devoted to showing everyone how to create these shadowy characters.

But sometimes shadows can be scary, depending upon one’s imagination.  I vividly remember my brothers and sisters telling ghost stories, and there was almost always a shadow involved in the story, with the obvious purpose of increasing suspense and scaring us.  I have another memory: I saw a really harmless movie (I think it was called “Tugboat Annie”) when I was maybe eight years old.  Annie punched someone out of exasperation, and that violence scared me.  So I told a fib to the sibling sitting next to me, saying that I had a stomach ache; then I got up and left the little rural theatre and walked home.  It was a very scary walk, with rustling autumn leaves, bats flying under the street lights, the inevitable hoot owl, and of course, lots of dark and spooky shadows.  Even my own shadow scared me once.  That four-block walk was the longest walk of my life!  (Mom made me take something for my “stomach ache,” the price I had to pay to avoid admitting the real reason I came home early.)

But there two, very special shadows that I want to mention, and they are related.  The beautiful PSALM 23 mentions one of them: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4a; NABRE; RSV).  Have you ever stopped to consider who was casting that shadow?  The psalmist knows.  It is light that causes shadows.  It is God who created the sun to give light to enable shadows to fall.  In fact, God is light, and speaking metaphorically, Jesus is the light of the world.  Thus the psalmist can pray trustingly, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Every shadow has a source.  We do not fear death, because we trust in the Divine Mercy and we believe in His constant presence within us.

Let’s look at one more special shadow.  First, make the sign of the cross ().  Did you notice that ever time that you make this gesture, you create a shadow?  Usually there is a light in front of us or above us, and as we trace the cross of Christ, a shadow appears.  What is the connection with this shadow, to the one mentioned in Psalm 23?  Well, the sign of the cross always reminds us of the victory of Christ over death, of God’s redemptive presence to us.  It should remove all fear from us.  In Psalm 23, the psalmist is fearless, even in the valley of the shadow of death, because he is focused and aware of God’s presence.

Our word "dependent" has a root meaning of "to hang down" (Webster's New World dictionary).  The crucifix is the ultimate manifestation of the ultimate dependency: Jesus depending upon his Father during his entire life, especially as he hung upon his cross.  There is a lesson there for you and me!

Did you know that the Church has blessed us by providing an indulgence (to remit temporal punishment due to sin, and to arouse in us a spirit of love), under the usual conditions, when we lovingly make this sign of the cross?  When we sign ourselves, we cast the shadow of the cross upon us, one might say, and that action has a deeper implication if our intentions are recollected.  We are telling our Lord and Redeemer that we accept any and all crosses that come to us, and we are joining our crosses to His for whatever redemptive value it may have for others (see Col 1:24).(1)

This is part of what the “spirituality of the cross” is all about.  As the Crozier Fathers (and others) express it so beautifully, in the cross there is hope and healing, not just pain and suffering.  Thus the cross is really the shadow of life, not just a shadow of death.  We must embrace it fearlessly, just like the psalmist; we must accept it obediently, just like Jesus.

We adore you O Christ and we bless You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world!  Jesus, we join our Blessed Mother and stand in the shadow of Your cross on Calvary, and worship You!   The shadow of Your cross is the shadow of life, the sign of our salvation!  Alleluia!

*   *   *
(1) Not to be patronizing, I simply want to make sure that we do not lose the grace of the moment.  Just “how” do we join our crosses to Christ for any redemptive value?  Simply verbalize and mean what you say: “Dear Jesus, I join my cross [name it; e.g., my headache, my exasperation with my rebellious kid, my cancer, my job worry, etc.] to your cross, for whatever redemptive value it may have for others.”  It is that simple.  – Paul.

No comments:

Post a Comment

(Comments from Anonymous sources will be reviewed before posting. - The Moderator.)