O Jesus, dwelling before me in the form and likeness of bread; containing your uncontainable infinity with the confines of a tiny wafer, which rests in a cup, which resides in a wooden box, which stands in a building of stone and glass, which we your creatures erected in a city on a planet, in a universe which cannot contain you; I humbly offer you my foolish lack of humility, for it is the only thing I have which is not your gift. Take it and destroy it as you will.
O Jesus, you kneel in the garden and fall prostrate on your face. Your mental and moral suffering is beyond my comprehension. You see and feel the true horror of every sin, the horror of malice, of ignorance, of weakness, of laziness. It is not merely the cumulative effect that so crushes you, but the horror of each one individually. You allow yourself to enter into my experience, and through your intimacy with me, you experience my sins firsthand. You are the helpless passenger, witness and victim of every act of lust, real and imagined, every snobbish word and thought, every selfish turning away, or malicious lashing out, or prideful turning up my nose. When I hiss out an insult or ignore and turn away and wound my brother or sister, you are trapped in my soul by your own love, keeping me alive and in existence, entering into the shame and horror and hatred. You are also the victim, whose pain stings me so slightly. You are longing to be taken into my soul when that I draw back from that sting by hardening my heart and renewing the insult, or walking away without apology. So deep is your intimacy with me that you, Holy, Holy, Holy You who could never in yourself commit a sin, nevertheless take on my sin and do what I cannot do. You feel the true shame and guilt that I should feel if I were not numb, protected “from Heaven and damnation/ which flesh cannot endure.” I complacently carry on as if all was well and that complacency is a new torture to you. Shame washes over you, drawn over your head like a wave, swept on by your love.
It is not just the guilt. The guilt does not hurt you half as much as my refusal to burden you with the guilt. When I spurn your mercy and keep it to myself, pridefully wallowing in shame, that wounds your heart even more. It is not the fact that you must enter into my sinfulness that crushes your soul, but the fact that I will not let you. “Lord, you shall never wash my feet!”
You cry out: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me.”
No, Lord Jesus! I must beg you. Do not refuse this cup. Do not pass it up. I know it is not merely the physical torture that you fear. You are too brave and too joyful to be thus overcome by fear of death. You are life itself! Nor is it the fear of public disgrace and mockery, for you are the Beloved Son! In you the Father is well pleased. What can man’s contempt do to you?
No, it is the love that you fear, the love that drives you to unite yourself to me so intimately that you partake in the horror of my guilt. It is the nauseating, soul-killing stench of hate and indifference in my soul, and the choice to draw that into yourself. Worse yet is the fear that I will not let you have that rottenness, but will insist on carrying it with me into hell. This is the choice which Love Himself demands of you, which truly frightens you.
But still I must beg of you, Lord, please go through with it. Listen to your Father and do His will, and take upon yourself the shame that you so mercifully shield me from feeling. I can promise you nothing in return. I can offer you nothing in return. I can make no argument. I cannot repay you. I do not deserve it. I will be ungrateful for most of my life, and even when I do start to pay attention I will never be able to see the full extent of your heroic love. I will never be able to thank you or appreciate you adequately. If I were in your place I know I would not do the same for you, as much as I wish I could say that I would.
I do have one reason to offer, and it is such a little one.
I love you.
I told you it was little. I admire you. I worship you. I see your courage and your love and it delights my soul. I marvel at the depth of your compassion, which would even look at me, let alone join me, become my sin. I need to be able to worship you, your uttermost compassion. Please give me yourself to worship. I know that it is not an external demand the Father places upon you, but the very essence of who you are. You are love. Do not deny who you are. Love is your glory, never more so than when it leads you by the way in which there is no glory. Please surrender to my need, and consent to offer me what I can never deserve, or adequately accept, or fully thank you for. Do this because you love me, and because, by your grace, I love you and I know you. You are love and compassion, and I could not bear to see you lacking in the glory that belongs to you.
But even as you utter those words, I know what comes next: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” I knew the strength of your love could not abandon me. In my thus praying I am not trying to convince you to do something that you would not otherwise do. I am only trying to enter into your desire to do it. I am trying not to be an obstacle to you, but an encouragement.
One thing only remains. Give me gratitude. Help me to honor your sacrifice in the only way that matters: by accepting it; By swallowing my pride and begging for it; by letting it be effective in me. Send your Holy Spirit into me that He may respond worthily as I cannot.
Perhaps someday you will have conquered me sufficiently that you will have taken up residence in my soul, fully and with no reservations. Just as that intimacy granted you the glory of taking on my shame, may a deeper intimacy allow you the glory of dying once again as a sacrifice in my body. May my life and death afford you the glory of being crucified and resurrected again in my flesh, however you see fit.