Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/12/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The older I get the more I am aware of my own failures in compassion and my lack of love

Like the Master whom we follow, we are called to become the least of these. That was what the late, great (though he would reject the accolade) Fr. Henri Nouwen meant when he warned of the \"lure of upward mobility\". He referred to it as the greatest sin of the age. He spoke of God's extraordinary love, revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as an alternative way, a way of \"downward mobility.\" 

Extreme Humility. An Icon of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for us.

Extreme Humility. An Icon of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for us.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/12/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: humility, compassion, holiness, Henri Nouwen, spirituality, downward mobility, Phillipins 2, Holy Spirit, charismatic, empathy, contemplative, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I have been facing some painful and difficult challenges lately. In fact, it seems most of the people whom I care about the most are walking along the same road.  Yet, it is on this road that we encounter the Lord, carrying His cross, and teaching us the liberating way of downward mobility.

The phrase is not my own. It was used by one of the great spiritual writers of our age, Fr. Henri Nouwen, in a book which I highly recommend called "Here and Now" Fr. Nouwen writes of the compassionate life. To understand the phrase it helps to remember the etymology of the word. At its root it means to suffer with; to enter into the suffering of another out of love. Clearly, this is the Way of Jesus Christ. We are his disciples. Is it becoming our way?

Pope St Leo wote of Jesus: "He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he, who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself."

Fr. Nouwen wrote concerning the compassionate life, "The compassionate life is the life of downward mobility! In a society in which upward mobility is the norm, downward mobility is not only discouraged but even considered unwise, unhealthy, or downright stupid."

He was correct. Yet, it is so hard to hold onto this insight, and even harder to live it. There is nothing new about this difficulty. We see Jesus, who is the incarnate example of this way, instructing His disciples in this way repeatedly. Apparently they had the same difficulty. For example:

"An argument arose among the disciples, about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." (Luke 9:46-50)

The older I get the more I am aware of my own failures in compassion and my lack of love. That is why I am regularly drawn to make an examination of conscience by reflecting on the profound words of Jesus recorded in the 25th chapter of St. Matthews Gospel. When all is said and done, we will be judged on whether we loved Him as he is revealed in those whom He loves.

"I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matthew 25.35-36)

It was said of the early disciples that they "turned the world upside down" with their preaching (Acts 17). Well, we still can. After all, we are His disciples in this millennium. They offered more than words. They offered a life of demonstrated love, of downward mobility. Will we learn how to love as He loved and embrace a way of life which reveals Him to others?
 
Like the Master whom we follow, we are called to become the least of these. That was what the late, "great" (though he would reject the accolade) Fr. Henri Nouwen meant when he warned of the "lure of upward mobility". He referred to it as the greatest sin of the age. He spoke of God's extraordinary love, revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as an alternative way, a way of "downward mobility." 

How extraordinary is this wonderful love of God, revealed in Jesus. How hard it is to comprehend its invitation. The God of the entire universe came among us as a man. He "emptied" Himself and took our body and our nature. In His sacred humanity he lived a full and complete human life, walking in intimate communion with His Father. He now makes it possible for us to do the same.

Because He was fully God, Jesus accomplished for us what we could never have accomplished for ourselves, he redeemed us, set us free from the punishment merited by our sin, and capacitated us to now live our lives differently by grace. He defeated the last enemy, death and overcame the evil one. He did all of this because He is love Incarnate and He can do nothing else but love in word and indeed.

He invites each of us to walk in His way, the way of "kenosis", a Greek word which means self-emptying love. He invites us to become the "least of these." St Paul writes of Jesus "Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself" (Philippians 2) 

God became the "least of these" in the Incarnation of His Son.  Will we? Will we allow the truth revealed in the conception, birth, saving life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to become our pattern for daily living? Will we cooperate with the grace of conversion and be emptied of ourselves for others?

We are invited to experience this mystery of faith and to make it real. When we empty ourselves, He comes and takes up His residence within us. Then, we become His arms, embracing the world; His legs, still walking its dusty streets; and His Heart, still beating with the Divine Compassion manifested in Jesus Christ, the One who became the "least of these" in order to bring us all into the full communion of love.

I will end with some more words from Fr. Nouwen, "This is the way of downward mobility, the descending way of Jesus. It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless--toward all who ask for compassion. What do they have to offer? Not success, popularity, or power, but the joy and peace of the children of God."

Let us learn to walk in the way of liberating way of downward mobility.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Living Faith

Let the Holy Spirit Teach us How to Become Prayer Watch

Image of St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece, telling them to pray without ceasing. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills, and yes, difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith. Yet, he instructed them to Pray without ceasing. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he ... continue reading


Pope Francis meets, blesses Sudanese woman condemned to death for faith Watch

Image of Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy, but has since escaped her sentence and left Sudan.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has met and blessed the Sudanese woman who was recently condemned to death for her faith. Meriam Ibrahim was condemned to death in Sudan for the crime of apostasy. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has met and blessed Meriam Ibrahim at the ... continue reading


MIRACLE IN ENGLAND: God's face smiles over Norfolk, or is it Sean Connery or Karl Marx? Watch

Image of This image is suspected to show the face of God in clouds over Norfolk, however, it may also be the face of Karl Marx or Sean Connery.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The English have long thought themselves special, and a new photograph from Norfolk in England may just prove that God does indeed smile on the English. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amateur photographer Jeremy Fletcher took an image that shows a face in ... continue reading


Pope Francis to visit Mafia stronghold this weekend Watch

Image of Pope Francis' stance against organized crime is seen as remarkable; the Mafia and the Catholic Church have previously been seen by many as having

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Incensed about the loss of innocent life in his immediate surroundings, Pope Francis plans to travel to the Mafia stronghold of Caserta, near Naples this weekend in an effort to set things right. The murder of three-year-old Nicola "Coco" Campolongo, a boy who ... continue reading


Pope expresses regret with exodus of Christians from Mosul Watch

Image of

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave. (CNA/EWTN News) - "They are persecuted; our brothers are ... continue reading


Your Catholic Voice Foundation delivers for Sisters of St. Joseph

Image of They're on their way, thanks to you.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An order for 350 Bibles for a Catholic school in Grenada has been shipped to the sisters free of international shipping charges, thanks to you, the readers of Catholic Online. The shipping charges stood at approximately $800, and was covered by donations. Now, Your ... continue reading


This is Ch__ch. What is missing?

Image of What's missing? You are!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What's missing from this church? You are! Are we mistaken? Show up and tell us you are already there and get your daily prayer and more for FREE as our thanks.Click here now to say you're there!Now you can share this question with your friends. Are they at church? continue reading


Unaccompanied migrant children need our help

Image of This is an image of immigrant children presently housed in conditions that would be unconstitutional for convicted felons. These children are without their families, alone and afraid and without control over their future, they are the victims of many culprits.

By Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined. According to Human Rights ... continue reading


Freedom, Choosing and Becoming: Moral Life and Truth Watch

Image of Our Moral Life in Christ.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

What we choose determines who we become. Choosing what is good changes the chooser, empowering him or her to proceed along the pathways of virtue and develop the habitus - or habits- which promote Christian character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ... continue reading


Pope Francis warns of migrant children falling prey to 'racist and xenophobic attitudes' Watch

Image of Pope Francis is calling for help and concrete solutions tot he plight of migrant children now flooding U.S. borders.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As hundreds of thousands of migrant children from Central and South American continue to flood the United States across the border of Texas, Pope Francis is calling for help and concrete solutions. Speaking at the Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretariat yesterday, ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Corinthians 4:7-15
7 But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
1 [Song of Ascents] When Yahweh brought back Zion's ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 20:20-28
20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came with her ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 25th, 2014 Image

St. James the Greater
July 25: For James there was no indication that this was the day that his ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter