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Surrender is the Highest Form of Freedom

Surrender is the Highest Form of Freedom

February 25, 2024

“Surrender is the highest act of freedom,” wrote Edith Stein/Sr. Teresa Benedicta (Essential Writings, p.145).  This profound statement encapsulates what Jesus embodied in his life, death, and resurrection.  Looking briefly at the trajectory of Jesus’ journey here is what we witness.  Following the Christmas season we immediately have the Baptism of Jesus.  At his baptism by John, Jesus surrenders into the baptismal waters; there he has an encounter with his Father.  As he is coming out of the water a voice says: ‘You are my beloved Son, my favor rests on you’ (Mk 1:9-11).  What happened in that encounter?  Did Jesus offer his will, surrendering to whatever God asked of him?  Clearly there is an exchange of love from Father to Son and Son to Father.  Immediately after the baptism Jesus is driven into the desert by the Spirit where he is tempted by Satan.  This was our gospel last Sunday, which opened Lent (Mk 1:12-13).  It is not Jesus who decides to go into the desert…he is led there, ‘driven’ there.  The temptations strengthen him in his relationship with his Father and help to clarify his mission.  In the temptations there is no self-referencing…Each time Jesus uses the Divine power of Scripture and refers to God never to himself.  No self-referencing, only surrender to God, surrendering to the ways of God, utterly dependent on the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance.  Already Jesus is saying ‘not my will but yours’.

For this second Sunday of Lent, we have the gospel of the Transfiguration (Mk 9:2-8). The Transfiguration, this encounter with God, reveals the full glory of Christ.  We cannot separate Jesus’ Transfiguration from what precedes this pivotal event in his journey to the Cross.  Only the one who surrenders is transformed.  The gospel passages before the Transfiguration include the predictions of his suffering and Jesus saying to us that if we want to follow him, we are to renounce ourselves and take up our cross…we cannot follow Jesus without the cross, without living the paradox of ‘losing our lives for life’. 

‘Surrender is the highest act of freedom.’  Surrender to whom?  To what?  It is an encounter of wills: our will and the Divine will.  Our will surrendering to the will of God.  Edith Stein in this same essay wrote: “The one who is drawn by God himself into the soul’s own inmost region and has surrendered there in the union of love, for such a one the question has been answered once and for all.  Nothing further is necessary than to allow God’s Spirit to direct and lead, for the Spirit will distinctly urge her/him on, and she/he will always and everywhere be certain she is doing the right thing” (Essential Writings, p.152).  Here is the urgrund, the basis, the primal cause, the primary principle for ‘surrender’: the ‘union of love’ expressed in the union of wills. 

‘Surrender motivated by love is the highest act of freedom’.  The basis for surrender is God’s love for us.  Once we know and experience this in the depths of our being, we are ready, we are enabled by grace to lay down our life for God and for our sisters and brothers.  As we continue our journey through Lent, we will witness Jesus living fully this ‘union of love’ with his Abba.  ‘Not my will but yours’ we hear Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:36).   This prayer is the heartbeat of Jesus from his baptism throughout his whole ministry, and into his death and resurrection.  ‘Not my will but yours’ embodies the union of love between God and Jesus. And thus, it is to be our daily prayer. The disposition of surrender when we pray, ‘not my will but your will Oh God’, uttered quietly within the inmost region of the soul, will break the heart open wider in love…for such a prayer is fully receptive to the love and action of God, ready to follow wherever the Divine promptings are bidding us forth.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Jesus’ divinity belongs with the Cross—only when we put the two together do we recognize Jesus correctly” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.305).  This is the face of Christ given to and for us in the Transfiguration. We all long for this freedom of spirit, this freedom to love and be loved, this freedom that gives us the courage to go the extra mile never counting the cost.  Jesus holds and embodies the paradigm of surrendering love in his self-gift which we see repeatedly in the gospels, and which is brought into bas relief during this Lenten season.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – Second Sunday of Lent – February 25, 2024, cycle-B

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