By Cory J. Howat
Although it seems that many of my posts read like a transcript of the old show Kids Say the Darndest Things, my children certainly offer unique insights that cause me to reflect. This time, enter my four-year-old son. Recently, toward the end of Mass, I had to hit the eject button from the pew in order to calm our newborn. My four-year-old was a little restless, so he joined us in the vestibule or lobby of our church. In our parish, we have a beautiful and fairly large Pietà in the vestibule… child-level. While I was bouncing the baby back to sleep, my four-year-old calls me over to the Pietà.With his finger depressed into Jesus’ stomach, he proclaimed that “even Jesus has a belly button!” With a slight chuckle, I affirmed this and added that Jesus was human just like us. My son’s naval findings brought on a deeper reflection this Lent that I often overlook – the humanity of Jesus.
Explaining to my son that Jesus had a belly button and was born to Mary was easy. I love sharing that Jesus was connected to his mother Mary the first nine months of his life. I often find it easy to see his humanity as an infant, but why was it so easy to forget this humanity when Jesus was about to face his own death?
In my Christian journey, I sometimes struggle to understand the final reward of sacrifice. Sacrifice is not easy and sometimes leads to embarrassment or unworthiness. Sacrifice is often framed with failure and weakness. So, how can we be okay with all of our human shortcomings? Well, the answer is the life of Jesus. Jesus showed us how in his humanity. Yes, we are human! Yes, we are weak. We do fail. In all of this humanity of ours, the Lord loves us intimately. This coming weekend, the Gospel of John touches on the fear and trepidation of Jesus before his suffering.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.” – JN 12:27-28
Jesus was troubled, even perhaps terrified of what was to come, even unsure of God’s plan for his life. He pleads to his Father in Mark 14:36 to “take this cup away from me.” I feel that sometimes while living as disciples of Jesus Christ, we tend to hold up that a Christian life is a pristine journey by someone who has all the answers all the time. But really, Jesus shows us in his own humanity that it is o.k. when life’s path is not so clear-cut and when sometimes there is doubt in our hearts.
Through Jesus’ Passion, we receive an example of the human challenges that we face in living out God’s plan. As disciples of Jesus, we need to allow ourselves and each other the room to fear, the room to have trepidation, the room to doubt. We are human. In that same spirit, we ask God that any suffering we do face becomes part of our purpose here on earth. We also pray that during suffering, we can glorify His name, just as Jesus did in the Gospel.
Take a moment this weekend to take the Gospel to heart. Can we think of areas of our own humanity that we often fight instead of embrace? Do we sometimes suppress our heartfelt questions to God thinking they may not be appropriate? Try to pause and ask yourself instead, what is God trying to reveal to you? Can we recognize just as Jesus did, that there are times of fear, but with that moment, God’s grace can help us carry through to fulfill the plan God has lovingly provided.
God sent His son to be as human as we are, to show us the way. Let us reflect this Lent on the humanity of Jesus and let it influence how we plead to God from our hearts. After all, we need to remind ourselves that we are human, broken and fallen. Just look down at your belly button to be reminded.
Cory J. Howat is the Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. His love for traveling, culture and adventure provide a unique perspective on life and the universal Church. For more about this blogger, click here.