“Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign.” (Matthew 12:39)
Proof. This generation demands scientific and intellectual proof of God’s existence, but no proof of this kind exists, or is possible, or will be given. It is asking for the scientific and intellectual proof of love. You can point to signs and wonders of selfless acts of devotion and courage, but these can be explained away by arguments about social theory, genetics, survival instincts, etc. Proof, as we have conveniently enthroned it, now stands outside of direct experience and love; the heart of being human. We have effectively depersonalized nature and ourselves. We now see behaviors and patterns, not persons. We have no eyes to see and no ears to hear. It is impossible for a depersonalized and unbelieving generation to see reality in its deepest aspect. The burden of proof rests on us to prove again that we are human beings and not less.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith.”
“The integration of the ‘I’ into ‘the body of Christ’ (the personal and communal reality that is divine communion), is not the self’s dissolution but its purification and the actualization of its authentic state of existence.”
– Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Merton and Jung both spoke often of the true self and the false self. Jung called the false self the ‘persona’; the self we present in public to get along or to exert power and control. The problem is, it is easy to confuse the false self for the true self. Merton spoke of the lifelong process of discerning the difference between the two. This is harder than it seems and it is never done. We will all go to the grave with the majority of our delusions intact. The great saving grace comes when we at least recognize this, stop defending it, and ask God for help. Such a request is never ignored.
God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us completely, as we are, not as we think we should be. God sees the original self beneath all of our masks and defenses. Every person’s deepest identity is that of God’s own true beloved. Living from this incredible truth in faith is the way to freedom. It is also the way to love one another. So where there is love there is hope.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
“O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.” (Psalm 62)
The land is parched. It is very hot. We have seen no measurable rain for a long time. Crops wither. Birds sit on the fence with their beaks open to cool their brains. Only weeds do well in these conditions. I am not a weed. I, too, yearn for relief. Unlike the plants and the birds, my yearning goes deeper and is always there, despite feast or famine. Deep in the heart of every person is a secret place that only God can fill. Send the life-giving waters of your Spirit, Lord, to the parched and weary landscape of my soul. “For you love is better than life.” (Psalm 62)
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword…one’s enemies will be those of one’s household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up their cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. If you find your life you will lose it, and if you lose your life for my sake you will find it.” (Matthew 10:34, 36-39)
Jesus, always a sign and a contradiction to the way we usually think, came to bring a sword of division between the world’s way and God’s way. This sword of truth goes all the way to the heart of reality and to the heart of every person. One who takes up the challenge to follow God’s truth will often be at odds internally and with those who are the closest of companions. This is how it is when you arrive at the heart of the matter. You are either with God or against God; you either gather or scatter. You cannot serve both God and the world of common thinking. You must be either hot or cold. The lukewarm are spat out. Jesus spoke very clearly about these things, so there is no question or a vague area about it at all. If you claim the title ‘Christian’ and believe Jesus is the Word of God, then the Way, the Truth, and the Life are unambiguous. Some serious choices and changes are in order without delay. The disturbing good news in today’s gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
“The spirit of faith is completely opposite the spirit of this world.” – Msgr. William Carr
On this perfect Summer day, I find myself unavoidably entering into each flowing moment in prayerful awareness. To let these moments slip past without notice would be an impossible act of ingratitude.
Morning. It is an absolutely beautiful and mild, shining, country day. Birds joyfully sing. The dappled sun shines through green leaves that wave in a gentle breeze. No machines. No radios. Just the earth having its day.
Afternoon. Gardening and mowing fill the hot and dry post-meridian hours. I pause to appreciate the prairie grasses and flowers, and their busy insect attendants. A bright blue sky looks down and seems pleased. The sun shines brilliantly. Beans are practically bursting from bushes in the gardens.
Evening. Walking the dog at sunset. Soon comes the night. Crickets and tree frogs serenade the stars reflected on ponds. I sleep with the windows open and drift away on their songs. Sleep comes easily.
A friend recently asked, “Why do we always say ‘Thank God’ when we know things happen either randomly or we make them happen?” Addressing the obvious assumptions in his question, I replied, “We thank God because the ultimate ground of existence is not our own.” Yes, there are random events and we are free agents to a degree, but we are not our own source and sustenance. A power not our own brings us into being, gives us life and sustains us. Even our powers of reason and action are contingent, having their origin outside us. We are co-creators and tenants here who live and move and have our being due to the source of all things, and for that, we can thank God. It is also a practical matter. A little gratitude and humility go a long way toward creating a joyful life.
“We cannot rise above ourselves unless a higher power lifts us up.” – St. Bonaventure (1221 – 1273)
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 24,25)
One important thing St. Thomas shows us is theological arguments and the testimony of others are poor substitutes for a direct personal encounter with the truth. The fundamental purpose of human life is to enter into personal relationship with the living center of consciousness who holds all things in being. Belief without personal experience is like eating the menu instead of the meal. A purely intellectual enterprise is not belief. Knowing and loving are believing.