“Whether out on the missions or at home, their chief concern will always be to make progress in the way of religious perfection. They will cultivate especially humility, poverty, self-denial, denial of self, a spirit of mortification and faith, purity of intention, etc, In a word, THEY WILL TRY TO BECOME OTHER JESUS CHRISTS (and always Jesus Christ as model)...” (from the 1831 retreat of St. Eugene de Mazenod – 163:XV in Oblate Writings)
Dramatic words, drastic words. The wording seems old-fashioned and yet I am drawn to it. Not because I am a sadist, but rather because in letting go of certain ways of being I believe I will be able to make room to be filled with something else.
I can remember back many years to when I first joined AA. They told me I would need to stop not just the drinking and drugs but also all of my behaviour built up around and associated with that – the friends, buddies and cohorts and most totally my life style. That would be the only way for me to get sober and attain what I had been looking for with alcohol. Dear God in heaven – at that time it sounded so drastic and impossible. But it worked.
So what does it mean ‘to become other Jesus Christs’? Well I’m pretty sure St. Eugene wasn’t just talking about gaining a following of good people to follow him, nor was it all focussed just on the Cross because out of that we have the resurrection. To him it was always about attaining religious perfection (what I call holiness, saintliness). So it’s about everything – the full humanity of Jesus, his being able to walk through his weaknesses and fears, his tender love for the poor with their different faces of poverty, his love and giving all due to the Father.
I’m pretty sure it will not be easy – it wasn’t easy to sober up because sobriety is about more than just not drinking. But now just as back then, I did not have to do it alone – even now I do not enter into this alone.