Monday, November 22, 2010

Point to Ponder #1: Kenosis and the Deacon

The first question for reflection is, "How kenotic am I?"  This is a good question for all disciples of Christ, and for deacons there is a particular relevance.  Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Fides et Ratio", wrote that "the prime commitment of theology is seen to be the understanding of God's kenosis, a grand and mysterious truth for the human mind, which finds it inconceivable that suffering and death can
express a love which gives itself and seeks nothing in return" (#93).  We deacons are fond of saying (correctly) that being a deacon is less about what we do but who we are; indeed, that's true for all disciples.  So, we begin our reflection by reflecting on "God's kenosis."

First, we should recall Paul's second letter to the Philippians, verses 5-11;

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I like to point out that St. Paul's reason for quoting this early Christian hymn was so that HIS READERS WOULD BE LIKE CHRIST!  So, while the hymn makes a clear statement about Christ's kenosis ("he emptied himself"), Paul's point is that we too are therefore called to empty ourselves in imitation of Christ.  How willing, really, are we to empty ourselves in service of God and neighbor?  This is a profound challenge and really, in the words of the saintly pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is "the cost of discipleship."  Deacons, as ordained servant leaders in and for the church, have a particular responsibility for modeling this kenosis.

I came across a nice talk on kenosis given by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, which I share here.  It's in four parts: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, PART FOUR.  I hope you can take the time to watch it; the total talk is only about a half hour or so.

Enjoy!  And then, share your reflections here. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Well, this line alone was worth the price: I like to point out that St. Paul's reason for quoting this early Christian hymn was so that HIS READERS WOULD BE LIKE CHRIST! (But kind of a cop-out to let Bishop Sheen do most of the talking!) I look forward to the rest of the series.