I have decided to read Richard John Neuhaus's Death on a Friday Afternoon again for Lent. So far I've got blue ink underlining and marginalia from a couple of years of readings and green highlighting from last year; I'm highlighting with pink this year. Pretty soon it will be easier to read what's not marked than what is . . . . I'll be posting quotes and occasionally thoughts during my reading. Most likely there will be plenty of repetition from my other postings on the book, but wisdom always bears repeating and rethinking and reliving.
The book is a series of meditations on the "seven last words" of the Savior on the Cross, an invitation to "stay awhile" with Good Friday before "rushing on" to Easter Sunday -- for without the death there is no resurrection. The first "word" is "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," and so is a meditation on the nature of forgiveness. Neuhaus gives an excellent rendition of the story of the prodigal son which points up the father's longing for the son's return and the son's return to his senses in the far country.
But what's caught my attention more this time, so far, is what Neuhaus says about identity. The entire book focuses a great deal on the question of who we are and who gets to answer that question. Here in the first chapter he writes of the crucifixion, "Every human life, conceived from eternity and destined for eternity, here finds its story truly told. In this killing that some call senseless we are brought to our senses. Here we find out who we most truly are, because here is the One who is what we are called to be." We recoil from following Him to the Cross, Neuhaus notes, but "we will not know what to do with Easter's light if we shun the friendship of the darkness that is wisdom's way to light." Later he adds, "We know ourselves most truly in knowing Christ, for in Him is our truest self."
We dare not name ourselves. The only way to sanity, to peace, to Love, is to accept His name for us, to know ourselves in Him and not in our own self-centered desires -- to die to self and live in Him. I hope for that to become still more of a reality this Lenten season.