*As we continue through this Lent season, we will be posting our blogs on Wednesdays at 5:30am instead of Mondays at 5:30am. Monday posting will resume after Lent. 

On this third week of Lent, as we journey through the stations of the cross, we’re focusing on Jesus encountering his mother as he carries the cross. The moment where Jesus’ path crosses his mother’s is one of the most evocative moments of the Easter story. We feel the pain on both sides. We feel Mary’s pain as she watches her son endure something so horrific, knowing he was about to die. No parent should have to watch their child suffer. We feel Jesus’ pain in seeing his mother–the one who comforted him as a boy, kissed his skinned knees and wiped his tears away–knowing there was nothing she could do to help him.

A concept I’m learning in my own spiritual work is indifference. For Ignatius, indifference (or detachment) was for the purpose of spiritual freedom. According to Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), detachment:

“…enkindles the heart, awakens the spirit, stimulates our longings, and shows us where God is.”

We can imagine what Jesus might have felt as he saw his mother. Did he wish he could stop and talk with her? Or that they could comfort each other for just a moment? He knew he had to put all his energy into the formidable task he had been sent to do. So instead, Jesus chose indifference. He had to.

Aside from Jesus, Mary probably knew better than anyone else what her son was meant to do. From the moment of the Annunciation, when Gabriel came to tell Mary she would bear the son of God, she knew Jesus had a special mission…and she knew it would require sacrifice. In Luke chapter 2, just after Jesus is born, the prophet Simeon shares his vision of Jesus’s future with Mary:

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35 (NLT))

The moment Jesus and Mary came face to face as Jesus carried His cross served as a parting of ways for the two of them. Both knew that God had a plan bigger than this pain, but they were also mother and son–deeply bonded, and in that moment, deeply agonized. Jesus had to choose indifference to complete the work He had come to do. 

What does healthy indifference look like?

Reflecting on indifference, or as Ignatius (1491-1556) refers to it, “detachment”, Gerald May writes:

Detachment is the word used in spiritual traditions to describe freedom of desire.  Not freedom from desire, but freedom of desire… An authentic spiritual understanding of detachment devalues neither desire nor the objects of desire.  Instead, it “aims at correcting one’s own anxious grasping in order to free one’s self for committed relationship to God.”

Conversely, disordered attachments lead us down a very different path. We grasp at, overreach, and attempt to take control. In reality, you and I have no power or control over what happens in this world, no matter how we may try to convince ourselves we do!

What does indifference look like in your life? 

A parting of the ways is something that we are often called to as Jesus followers. There will be moments where our response to an invitation from the Lord will require everything from us. While very few of us have been called to make a sacrifice as arduous as Jesus’, we all will be challenged to trust Him during difficult times. Counting the cost of following Jesus in life and ministry will, at some point, prove difficult. 

Questions for reflection: 

  • How do disordered attachments manifest themselves in your life or ministry?
  • What does healthy indifference look like in your life/ministry?
  • How are you practicing indifference in your life/ministry?
  • What invitation is Jesus offering you to practice indifference?
  • How are you doing at maintaining healthy indifference?

I’ll close with a quote from the mystic, Thomas Merton (1915-1968):

“We cannot see things in perspective until we cease to hug them to our own bosom.”

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