27 December 2007

The vocation to Chronic Illness,

I received some questions about the notion of "chronic illness as vocation", and I am aware that there have been a number of visits to the article here in the blog about Eremitism as a vocation for the chronically ill and disabled. While I will write those who emailed me with questions, I thought I should also write a bit more about this idea here, not only because the Review For Religious article on Eremitism which was reprised here was a relatively brief introduction to the idea, but also because as positively provocative as the phrase "vocation to chronic illness" is, it is also easily misunderstood.

What a Vocation to Chronic Illness is NOT

First, therefore, let me say something about what a "vocation to chronic illness" does NOT mean!! In no way do I mean to suggest that God wills our suffering, much less that he calls us to this, especially in the forms of chronic illness or disability! We need to make sense of suffering, and we need to take seriously the sovereignty of God, but we cannot take these two pieces of the human puzzle, facilely slide them together as though they are related as effect and cause, and conclude that God wills suffering. In fact, I don't think we can speak of the suffering human beings endure as positively willed by God in any way, shape, or form with the single exception of Christ's own exhaustive participation in our human condition. (The permissive will of God is another matter, and, except for agreeing that it is real, I am not addressing that here.)

Our Essential Vocation: Authentic Humanity

The conjunction of human and divine often strikes us as paradoxical: expressions of brokenness, sin, alienation, weakness, hatred, untruth and distortion stand in conjunction with wholeness, goodness, unity, power (authority), love, truth and beauty themselves. But, to be less abstract, the human-divine equation, the community or dialogical event we are each called to be often looks to be composed of incredible contradictions: our sinfulness becomes the place where God's mercy/justice is exercised most fully; our weakness and brokenness the place where God's own strength and wholeness (holiness) is most clearly revealed; our fundamental untruth and distortion the place where God's own truth verifies and hallows us, authoring us in Christ as his own parables to speak the Gospel to a hungry world.

There are few images of human sinfulness and brokenness so vivid as that of illness, and especially of chronic illness or disability. It is not the case that the ill person is a worse sinner than others who are well or relatively well. Neither is it the case that illness is the punishment for sin, especially personal sin. Still, it IS the case that the chronically ill bear in their own bodies the brokenness, estrangement from God, and alienation from the ground of all wholeness, holiness, and truth which are symptoms of the condition of human sinfulness. What is expressed in our bodies, minds, and souls, is the visible reminder of the universal human condition. Chronic illness itself then, is symbolic of one side of the truth of human existence, namely, that we exist estranged from ourselves, from others, and from our God. We are alienated from that which grounds us, establishes us as a unity, and marks us as infinitely precious and our lives as richly meaningful and fecund. We live our lives in contradiction to what we are TRULY called to be.

We sense this instinctively, and this is the reason, I believe, personal sin has so often been associated with illness as its punishment (rather than simply as consequence or symptom). We know that this state (estrangement symbolized by illness) is not as things SHOULD be, not as we are meant to exist, not appropriate to persons gifted in their capacity for dreaming and effecting those dreams beyond anything else known in creation. Chronic illness, in particular, is an expression of what SHOULD NOT BE. It is a metaphor for the reality of (the state of) sin; of itself it is paradigmatic of ONE PART of the human condition, that of brokenness, alienation, and degradation. Of course, there is another part, another side to things for the Christian especially, and it is this which transforms chronic illness into a context for the visible and vivid victory of God's love in our lives.

The Image of sinfulness transformed

Authentic humanity is modeled for us and mediated to us by Christ. And above all it is a picture of a life which implicates God in every moment and mood of this existence. More, it is a life which is an expression of the deep victories and individual healing and unity God's grace occasions when it is allowed to reign. Whether to the heights of union with God, or the depths of godless sin and death, Christ's life is an expression of that openness and responsiveness to God which constitutes truly human being, and the supreme example of what it means for God's creative sovereignty to triumph over human sinfulness. Paul expresses the paradox in this way: "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." Jesus' entire life is an expression of the response to the vocation to allow this truth to be realized in human history in a way which makes it a possibility for all of us. It is an image of the unseen (and sometimes unfelt) God whose presence transforms human sinfulness into abundant and eternal life and wholeness. It is, in brief, what we ourselves are called to, and to what those with chronic illness and disability in particular can make manifest with a unique vividness and poignancy.

During the Christmas season, there is another figure who particularly captures our attention in her own capacity to embody the paradox which Paul affirms. Mary, in her own way, is an exemplar of the dynamic of God's power which is made perfect in conjunction with human weakness and even barrenness. The result is a fruitfulness beyond all imagining, a truly miraculous and awesome humanity, which, precisely in its lowliness can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, spill over with the majesty of God's own life in our world. This too is what we ourselves are called to, and what those with chronic illness and disability can especially reveal with special poignancy and vividness.

What a Vocation to Chronic Illness Actually IS:

First of all then, a vocation to chronic illness is a call by God to live an authentically human life. It is a vocation to ESSENTIAL wellness and wholeness. This will mean it is a human life which mirrors Jesus' own, as well as that of Mary, and the other Saints, in allowing God to be God-with-us (Emmanuel). Concretely this means living a life which manifests the fact of God's love for us, and the intrinsic inestimable worth of such a life despite the ever-present values of a world which defines worth (and happiness!) in terms of productivity, earning power, wealth, health, and superficial beauty.

Afterall, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that there is NOTHING we can do to earn God's love, and nothing we NEED DO! God loves us with an everlasting love, and he does so, as Ezekiel tells us,for the sake of his own self, for the sake of his own "holy Name". It is further, therefore, the very good news that with God being for us nothing and no one can prevail against us. God has entered into our human estate, and done so definitively. Objectively there is no dark corner, no place at all from whence God is absent --- for Jesus has implicated God even into the realms of sin and sinful or godless death. In fact, these become the privileged places which reveal God's face to us, the places where he is definitively present. I personally believe we have to say the same, therefore, of illness, which is ordinarily so clearly a metaphor for human brokenness, alienation, and godlessness. For the Christian, chronic illness in particular can become a metaphor for the triumph of God's love in the face of such brokenness. It can become a sacrament of God's presence in a world which needs such sacraments so very badly.

The vocation to chronic illness or disability is, like all Christian vocations, a call not to remain alone and self-sufficient, but instead to rest securely in God and in the esteem in which he holds us so surely. Like all Christian vocations it is a call to holiness, that is to ESSENTIAL WHOLENESS and perfection in and of God's own power, God's own "Godness". This requires we accept an entirely different set of values by which we live our lives from those put forward so often by our consumer-driven, production-defined world. It is a call to find meaning in a life lived simply with and for God, and to carry our convictions about this to a world which is so frantically in search of such meaning.

And, it means to learn to accept the suffering that comes our way as best we can so that He may "make up what was lacking" in the sufferings of Christ and one day be all in all. (Let me be clear that in no way is Paul suggesting Jesus' death was inadequate or did not definitively implicate God into the world of sinful godlessness; however, Paul is also clear that God's victory is not yet total; God is not yet all-in-all. Each of us has a part to play in the extension of Jesus' victory into the concrete and very personal parts of our own stories where God ALSO wills to be triumphant. While Jesus's victory makes God present here in principle, because these realms are personal, we must also allow him in to them. Evenso, we do so IN CHRIST, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, so this victory is an extension of Christ's, not our own in some falsely autonomous sense.)

Christians, above all, do not suffer alone, nor are they ultimately dehumanized by their suffering. On the contrary, suffering, as awful as it still can be, has now the capacity to humanize. This is not because of some power suffering has of itself. Rather, it is because suffering opens us to rely on someone larger and more powerful than ourselves, and to allow meaning to come to us as gift rather than achievement. It can open us in particular ways to the power and presence of God because it truly strips us bare of all pretensions and false sense of self. At the same time then, suffering can humanize because ours is a God who ultimately brings good out of evil, life out of death and barrenness, and meaning out of meaninglessness. This is, afterall, the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. If those with chronic ilness can live up to their calls to allow these simple truths to be realized in their own lives, and become clear to others, they will, in large part, have accepted and fulfilled their vocations.

25 December 2007

Christmas, 2007, Merry Christmas from Stillsong Hermitage!!

"Brothers and Sisters: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; In these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe." (Heb 1:1-2), Reading for Lauds, Christmas Day

"Here is the message we heard from him and pass on to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. . . . Moreover, we have seen for ourselves, and we attest, that the Father sent the Son to be the savior of the world,

and if a person acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him/her and s/he dwells in God. Thus we have come to know and believe the love which God has for us." 1 John 1:5, 4:14-16.

23 December 2007

Sunday, Advent Week 4

"It was there from the beginning; we have heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes: we looked upon it, and felt it with our own hands; and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the Word of Life. This life was made visible; we have seen it and bear our testimony; we here declare to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. And we write this in order that the joy of us all may be complete." (1 Jn 1-4)

In memoriam: Anabelle Farrell, St Perpetua's Parish. Died December 23, 2007. For Anabelle, the real Feast of Light for which we all yearn has begun; her joy is complete, while we grieve her loss. Pray for us Anabelle!!

21 December 2007

Emmanuel, Naming the Communion Which is the Human Heart

How many of us are completely convinced of our need for God? For how many of us is he an occasional visitor we may or may not make time for, but not really someone essential to our own humanity? We are human, we think, without him --- not AS human or enriched as we might be otherwise, but human all the same. We are "just" or "merely" human without him, we think --- poor perhaps, and beset by this sin or that maybe, but still human all the same.

But no! The truth at the heart of our faith is otherwise; the truth which undergirds our prayer, worship, hope, and destiny is otherwise. The option before us is not to be religious people or non-religious people. It is not a choice between a merely richer or more impoverished existence, both equally human. The option before us is really to be human or not, to embrace the truth at the heart of ourselves and to be the responsive word event we are called to be, or to reject this truth, and our deepest selves as well. Mary's response to this call was "FIAT!" and it is the response, the ongoing hearkening which God seeks from us as well.

The image of God coming to us from outside us is a true one. Christmas is indeed a celebration of this kind of coming. But Christmas is also the fulfillment of a young woman's hearkening to the Word spoken deep within her, uniquely spoken within her, yes, but spoken within her just as it is spoken within each of us as well. The nativity of the One who would definitively incarnate God's logos is what we will celebrate at Christmas, but this event is rooted in the altogether human "yes" to God's proposal to wed his destiny to ours; it is a yes which is expected from each of us, and which was uniquely accomplished in Mary's own heart. It is the yes we are meant to be, and which our hearts are meant to sing at each moment and mood of our lives, the yes which will allow God's merciful love to transform the barrenness and poverty of our existence into fruifulness and new life.

The image of the human heart as a communal reality has been very rich for me this Advent, and I cannot let it go at this point (this blog has taken on the shape of a theme and variations, I know). The sense that I am not human alone is a freshly startling insight for me. It is not simply that I need others, nor even that my being embraces others as threads in the weaving which is my life. These things are true enough, and I can recall the times I came to understand these things, and the theological quandries they resolved. The truth goes deeper, is more profound, however: I am myself ONLY INSOFAR as I am a communion with God (and with others in and through him).

Communion with God is not simply something I am made for in the future --- as though I have the capacity for this relationship, but could, if I chose, forego it and still be myself. Communion with God is the NATURE OF my ESSENTIAL being. I AM --- insofar as I am truly human --- communion with God. My truest I is a "we".(Remember e e cumming's poem, we're wonderful 1X1? cf post for October 26, 2007 to reread this poem) To the extent God and I are a we, I am truly myself. This is true for each of us, no matter our vocation or state of life. For us, the choice is between a false autonomy which is really inhuman, and (as Paul Tillich would put the matter) a theonomy which constitutes us as truly human. Unless this exists, and to the extent there is no communion with God, there is no "I" --- not in the truest sense of that pronoun.

The circumcision of our hearts, the making ready "the way of the Lord" is not only the making ready for Christmas. It is the preparation for our own continued nativities as well. With Mary, we learn to say "Fiat" to the God who would be God-with-us as part of our very being. Prayer is indeed not something only specialists or the really religious do; it is the essence of being human, the activity which allows the God who would REALLY join his destiny with our own to be the One he WOULD be, and to be the persons he makes US to be as well. Therefore, we pray for two reasons: 1) because we are MADE for it and would not be authentically human selves without it, and 2) because GOD needs us to do so if he is ALSO to be the One he wills to be. Once again, our's is a God who has chosen and determined not to remain alone; he has chosen and determined that his lfe and our own are to be intimately linked, inextricably wed, in a Communion of shared destiny.

God-with-us certainly refers to the infant in Mary's womb as we approach the baby's nativity, but it also very much refers to the Communion God desires be born in our own hearts. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is the name given the truly human heart. It is the name given to anyone who fulfills their truest destiny, by allowing God to be God for, with, and within us.

19 December 2007

Advent, week 3: Alfred Delp, sj

Are you a person
whose concerns are with God?
Are you a person of whom it can be said
that your heart and mind are filled
with a peace that supasses all comprehension?
Oh, that we could be such people again,
intrinsically filled to the brim ---
not only with the knowledge,
but with the personal, prayed-in,
and wrestled-in reality and abundance
of our Lord God!

Alfred Delp, sj
Third Sunday of Advent, 1944

Our parish hosted a visiting priest this last Sunday, and he spoke about Fr. Alfred Delp, also a Jesuit who was executed by the Nazi's for treason. Delp's writings from prison and some of his Advent meditations and homilies had been inspiring to this priest since he was a novice, and he recommended them to us. The above is taken from the book, Advent of the Heart, Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings 1941-1944. It was written just weeks before he was hanged. The book is terrific and I will add it to the list at the right. I may also post excerpts of one of his homilies for the third week of Advent.

15 December 2007

Week 3: Advent 2007

I have continued thinking about the human heart as a relational or dialogical reality. I have also been thinking about the clear contemplative sense that we are called to be taken up into the very life of the Trinity itself,that is, into the very heart of God, where deep (God within) calls to deep (God without), and our lives (as words of this one God) become ultimately and definitively contextualized, and so, ultimately significant, ultimately meaningful. With regard to the human heart, Advent speaks so clearly: we are to make ready this dwelling place of the Lord, for the One who will dwell in the relative barrenness of our lives, and make of them a flourishing garden, wills to live here in smallness and obscurity --- often unrecognized even by the one who's heart it is.

It is striking to me that Benedictine spirituality is so strong regarding hospitality. It is a nonnegotiable element of the Rule of St Benedict and of Benedictine spirituality --- even for hermits! And yet, it is all rooted in the centrality of the Incarnation to our faith, and to our very being as well. We recognize that our monasteries or hermitages are meant to be places of authentic hospitality, not merely of other people -- though of course this is true since others are Christ's presence and imago --- but of God himself, for our's is a God who wills to dwell amongst us. Of course we know that in our prayer we do indeed create (or allow the Spirit to create!) a climate or environment of hospitality where God may dwell, but before our monasteries or hermitages become places of authentic hospitality, our hearts must first be transformed into cells of attentive love where God is entirely at home.

In Advent, we look towards the beginning of the "definitive incarnation" of God among us. We focus on the fact that he comes to dwell with us and becomes embodied in human flesh, and we refer to the second coming, but do we look enough at our own lives, our own hearts as the PLACE where that second coming is realized? How often do we consider that our own hearts are the wombs where God will become(or will be prevented from becoming) newly incarnated in our world, and where in fact, we "make up for what is lacking" in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? Afterall, these are the places, the events where God speaks himself and us/our names --- looking for the responses we will be as we allow him to be God-with-us. These are the mangers in which new nativities are birthed, the arenas in which new martyrdoms are born and acted out, new missions discerned and motivated, and the sovereignty of God transformed into the Kingdom of authentic freedom and peace which will eventually transform the whole world. It is our hearts that are the contexts for genuine Christmas, and in Advent we focus on their preparation, purification, healing and capacity for hospitality.

10 December 2007

The Subversion of our Life Stories: the Coming of the Kingdom.

In reflecting on the Lord's Prayer this Advent, I came to understand the Kingdom of God as an ongoing, but yet-to-be-realized event, and that, with the particular character of story. Still, it is not simply a story talked about or narrated to others (though this may also occur); it is a story enacted, a Word event enfleshed, the dabar or Logos of God incarnated in human history. The challenge for each of us I think, is to make this story our own --- or rather, to accept the place in it which God offers and calls us to accept. The problem? We already reside rather securely in other stories, other controlling narratives and myths which define who we are and what is success and failure, piety and impiety, truth and untruth, poverty and enrichedness, etc, etc. The story which is God's Kingdom promises to subvert these other narratives and myths; conversion means embracing this process and accepting a place in this parable of God with its new perspectives, new way of seeing, understanding, valuing and loving, etc.

Human beings are storytelling and storylistening beings. We are "hardwired" for stories. It is part of the fabric of our very being. We belong to and long for story because story contextualizes our lives, and contextualization gives meaning to them, or better, allows them in one way and another to realize the meaningfulness they are capable of. It gives our lives a trajectory and aim to follow or accomplish, values to embody, a role or roles to act out. But this means that some stories serve us better than others. Some will distort us, or allow us to develop in only this way or that while ignoring other potentials for meaning we have. And, because we really are part of a larger story and MADE FOR story, it means also that we will naturally embrace or adopt some unworthy controlling myths and narratives unconsciously as well as consciously, and be relatively unaware of their role in defining us.

When Jesus told parables he did so for two related reasons: first, to identify and subvert some of the less than authentic controlling myths people had adopted as their own, and second to offer the opportunity to make a choice for an alternative story by which one could live an authentically human and holy life. Parables, Jesus' parables that is, throw down two sets of values, two perspectives beside one another (para = alongside, and balein = to throw down). One set represents the Kingdom of God; one the kingdom where God is not sovereign. The resulting clash disorients us; it is unexpected and while first freeing us to some extent from our embeddedness in other narratives, summons us to choose which reality we will inhabit, which story will define us, which sovereign will author us. Will (to whatever extent) we affirm the status quo, the normal cultural or religious narrative, or will (to whatever extent) we instead allow our minds and hearts to be remade and adopt a different story as our own? Who will author us, the dominant culture, or the God who relativizes it?

In church each year we begin the narrative again. We recount God's own story in the Christ event beginning with the history preceding the nativity and culminating in it as the first chapter of the incarnation. A God who comes to us, to actually dwell with us in obscurity and littleness is a scandalous God, and yet, the story is not yet so threatening as it becomes at Lent. Still, we are invited to allow it to begin to shape us and our expectations of what is truly human and what is truly divine. We are invited to allow it to begin to subvert the stories by which we have made sense of our lives up until now. But this will mean spending some time identifying the non-Christian stories which are or have been operative in our lives up until this point.

And here we begin to see the purpose of Advent: to allow us time to do this kind of identifying, to locate the values we have embraced, the themes and characters which mark a successful life apart from Christ, the goals and purposes which have devoured our energies and claimed our love where something other than God was sovereign, the definitions of central human realities (e.g., justice, peace, success, failure, freedom, bondage, richness, poverty, strength, weakness, holiness, piety, godlessness, etc) which have captured our minds and hearts and which God's reign contradicts and redefines. God's Kingdom comes as a story we can accept or reject, trivialize and sentimentalize or respect and elaborate appropriately. It comes with sets of values we may find unpalatable and unpopular, and a protagonist we may find either scandalous or foolish depending upon whether we are conventionally religious or commonly wise or intelligent. It comes to us clothed in swaddling and proclaiming majesty in a manger. And it comes to us offering a context for our lives we cannot create for ourselves, a context which will make meaningful or senseless so much of who we already are and are called to become.

Personally, I will be spending the rest of this Advent trying to identify the elements of my story which still define me apart from Christ: the bits of script which recur from childhood even now, the values I have never fully let go of, the expectations which this culture both blatantly and insidiously inculcates on a daily basis and which I have allowed to shape my own mind and heart. To some extent the Kingdom of God IS my story; it has adopted me, and I have embraced it as well. But, like rereading a familiar and well-loved book, it can always be more completely appropriated and elements of alien controlling myths more completely relinquished. Make straight the paths of the Lord, we are told: let the valleys be raised, and the hills be made low. But the prophet might as well have said, "Listen! Examine your stories! Time to cut a few chapters, characters, themes, and restructure the plotline! Time to make this God's OWN story, not a tale he has a bit part in or no real ongoing role as author! Time to let him subvert the story you have been living and make a parable out of your life! Time to become aware of all those things which no longer (or never did) serve the REAL story! Time to enflesh the NAME God has called you by from all eternity. Time to be HIS story.

08 December 2007

Week 2, Advent 2007

It is true that the human heart is the "place where God bears witness to himself", and that therefore there is an ongoing dynamic and unremitting hallowing going on in the very core of our being. This profound reality seems a tremendous miracle and an awesome picture of what constitutes the human person. And yet, wondrous as it is, it is only a portion of the picture, a part of what constitutes us as human in regard to God, a portion of how it is we are related to the One who wills to dwell with us and to reconcile all things in and through himself. For it is not only true that God dwells within us, but it is also true that he exists outside of us, and in fact, is that ultimate reality within which we move and have our being.

Many images may be used to refer to this ultimate context of our lives, but the most intimate remain "womb", and "heart." We often have the image of a God who remains distant from us, remote and hard to reach or hear. In the sense that God is wholly other than we are, there is some truth in these images. And yet, what is also true is that God is the communion of being and love IN WHICH we are called to exist and out of which we are called to reach out to others. Whether we envision this reality as a womb, or a heart, or even a Word or story which we are allowed to enter and which calls us to rest securely within, ours is a God who in this way also has chosen not to remain alone.

When combined with the image of the Word or song of God dwelling actively within our own hearts, we have a really awesome portrait of human existence: we are made for divinity both within and without. God calls to us, and to Godself within us, from without; he summons us to greater and greater degrees of communion, greater and greater degrees of identification with himself. Word calls to Word; it seeks its own completion, reconciliation, or perfection in this way. And so too do we reach our own completion and perfection in this way. Just as an isolated word has no meaning without context, so too do our own lives remain senseless unless the Word spoken deep within our hearts, that Name by which God calls us to be, also comes to rest in the Word/Story which comes to us from outside. Augustine said it more simply: Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.

Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare our hearts, not only that God has a wider or more spacious place to dwell within them, but so that they may accept a place we are each offered in the infinite heart of God as well. We prepare our hearts so the Word God speaks within us will be able to be more perfectly attuned to the Word he speaks outside us. We prepare our hearts so that they may be more able to embrace their own place in the story which is God's Kingdom, their own seat at the Wedding banquet, their own role in the nativity of God-with-us in our world. In our own hearts the Word of God looks for an opening into our world; in our hearts God seeks a way to become personally present to his creation. But at the same time our hearts are summoned to rest in God's own heart, to allow deep to call to deep, and to be the everyday, day-in-and-day-out, kinds of mystics Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were. It is this double relationship to God's own Life that constitutes authentically human existence --- a kind of parabolic (parable-ish) existence which witnesses to and introduces others to the drama of communion we call Trinity --- and it is the birth of this kind of existence our continuing Advent preparations envision and facilitate.

03 December 2007

A New Year Begins: Week 1; Advent 2007

To everyone who visits these pages, I extend my sincerest wishes for a wonderful and very prayerful and fruitful Advent! We rejoice that ours is a God who, while completely self-sufficient in and of himself, and in need of no one or nothing outside himself, has also chosen from the beginning not to remain alone. Going out of himself, he creates the cosmos, and emptying himself of his divine prerogatives he wills the free response of those who would be his own; he creates, allows (and summons) that creation to evolve to greater and greater levels of complexity, rejoices as humanity-on-the-way-to-God comes to be, calls out of this humanity a special people who would be his in a special way, and waits for One to come out of this people who will incarnate his Word as uniquely beloved Son.

In Advent we prepare for the coming of this One, the Christ who reveals (makes known and makes real in space and time) true and authentic humanity marking us as called by name and capable of calling upon God in the same way. He is the one who exhaustively embodies the mutual story we call the Kingdom of God, the shared covanental destiny of God and humanity worked out in history. He is the one we know as Jesus, and the God he makes known is the One who comes amongst us in weakness and lowliness. May your preparations this year be fruitful and profound, and may you come more and more in your own lives to be drawn fully into the story of this One we call Messiah.