The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 18: Carne.

Henri, Let Jesus Transform You:

You are looking for ways to meet Jesus. You are trying to meet him not only in your mind but also in your body. You seek his affection, and you know that this affection involves his body as well as yours. He became flesh for you so that you could encounter him in the flesh and receive his love in the flesh.

But something remains in you that prevents this meeting. There is still a lot of shame and guilt stuck away in your body, blocking the presence of Jesus. You do not fully feel at home in your body; you look down on it as if it were not a good enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough place to meet Jesus.

When you look attentively at your life, you will see how filled it has been with fears, especially fears of people in authority: your parents, your teachers, your bishops, your spiritual guides, even your friends. You never felt equal to them and kept putting yourself down in front of them. For most of your life, you have felt as if you needed their permission to be yourself.

Think about Jesus. He was totally free before the authorities of his time. He told people not to be guided by the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus came among us as an equal, a brother. He broke down the pyramidal structures of relationship between God and people as well as those among people and offered a new model: the circle, where God lives in full solidarity with the people and the people with one another.

You will not be able to meet Jesus in your body while your body remains full of doubts and fears. Jesus came to free you from these bonds and to create in you a space where you can be with Him. He wants you to live the freedom of the children of God.

Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years. Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you. You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body. Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.



Here it is again, visiting another time like that little puppy that prances down the street to your door hoping for an invitation. Whether or not you feed her at first, she knows that eventually you’ll break down and succumb to her big loving eyes and her irresistible desire to let her love you, warmly and  unconditionally.

Incarnation keeps tapping at my door, looking up at me like it knows that it will get in eventually and be given a home in my heart, now fearless and open to it. Incarnation has been a pervasive theme for me these last weeks, giving a new power to the concrete Jesus of history, the pregnancy of Mary, the importance of my own mass of muscle and fat and skin and bones to my faith.

This week I just finished up Mark Baker’s class Global Christian Theologies at the seminary, where incarnation has taken on new life. A selection from the Rev. Dr. Loida Martell-Otero’s “Of Satos and Saints: Salvation from the Periphery” is the reading for this reflection.

Written for December 1 class, slightly edited:

Up til this point, the word incarnation had been a fairly lifeless one. I knew the idea, and the weight of the incarnation as God choosing to spend time on earth; but for all my recent musings and convictions around a bodily and fleshly theology, I failed to grasp the richness of incarnation until reading Martell-Otero’s English selection with some Spanish intermixed. From page 19, “… salvation is an incarnational event; nos afecta en la carne.”

My English-speaking (and hungry!) mind moved immediately to add asada to the end of the sentence. Obviously not the author’s point, this thought of suddenly moving from theological reflection to a burrito jolted me into recognizing how powerful this incarnation is. Nowhere but in a historically concrete context does God in Jesus happen; no place other than a man’s body of flesh and blood. It strikes me now to see the carne so often profane or unvalued – carnal desires, elementally body or meat – thrust right into the middle of incarnation/encarnacion, the word we use to describe the presence of God in our midst. It was reading theology in another language that made this enrichment possible.

If incarnation is at all related to carne asada, it must be worth looking into.
Come back, little puppy. I’m getting closer to letting you in.



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