“…Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
I have been reflecting on defeat and thinking about losing.
Pretty much from the moment we are born, we are conditioned – by the things of this world – to believe that losing is bad, being defeated is bad and missing out is bad.
Effectively, we are conditioned to believe that defeat or losing is the worst possible outcome that could eventuate in our lives. Understanding this conditioning, does not preclude me from participating in it, as I teach my children to study hard so that they will get a good job one day. And my husband and I work hard so that we can get ahead and provide for our family. And we try to support our family and friends when they are struggling so that they will not miss out on opportunities that will help them to get ahead also.
And yet – despite all of this pre-conditioning – God Himself lost!
At least, that is how it appeared during His Passion and Death when He suffered and died. He lost. God lost. And He lost in the most public and humiliating manner imaginable. God did not lose in private. He lost publicly and openly with nowhere to hide. You see, Christ lost by being executed by hanging from a tree, naked and relatively alone as the lowest sort of criminal.
Imagine His neighbours and their gossip. Imagine Our Blessed Mother who had to go home and listen to that gossip and the whispered jeering. Imagine her isolation from her community. Imagine the injustice in the condemnation that she would have received as the Mother of a Child who was publicly executed as a criminal and unjustly convicted of blasphemy.
I can imagine the utter humiliation of such gossip and abuse – completely unfounded – and silently accepted. I can imagine the silent heartbreak of the purest soul ever created who had to endure such unjustified and bitter anguish in the gossip and judgement of her neighbours – people who were not pure and not perfect and not even very good… And I can imagine the unimaginable dignity in this public losing of the Blessed Virgin.
You see, even in those moments – united as she was to her suffering Son – she continued to learn from her Child – Christ, through His perfect example, continued to teach His Blessed Mother, even in His dying moments – how best to accept injustice and suffering.
And I can imagine those lessons of love that Our Blessed Mother absorbed while waiting at the foot of the Cross…
And because she learned such lessons, Our Blessed Mother could never really lose…
The 4th century Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate persecuted Christians (despite having been raised as a Christian himself). He wished to eradicate the religion of the Galilean. He renovated the old temples, reinstated pagan priests, and persecuted the Church. At the age of 32, Julian was injured with a spear in battle and died. Before he died he said, “You have won, O Galilean!”
And I have been reflecting on that too. Because although it appeared – at first – that God lost, dying alone and naked on the Cross, in reality, He won the whole world… Now, some two thousand years later, there are over a billion Catholics – despite ancient and modern persecution… And so it occurs to me that we should listen to the words of Christ who said, “…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.