Tuesday, November 20, 2007

His Joy in Me

This morning at Mass I had one of those moments when I suddenly saw something that is most likely perfectly apparent to everyone else. It always seems to be the perfectly ordinary things that totally amaze me! As I was walking back to the pew after receiving Communion, this verse, from John's Gospel, came to mind with particular force: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (John 15:11). And I thought, His joy, something not abstract but particular and concrete, was literally in my mouth.

So I recalled that Jesus said these words during the Last Supper discourse, immediately after giving the apostles the parable of the True Vine. His joy, then, is a force that generates unity: I am the vine and you are the branches. My joy is not a reaction to some action of God. It is a gift placed in me. It only becomes "mine" after He places it in me -- and then it may be complete.

I seem to be picking at words, rather than saying anything. But this recognition (no matter how banal it might seem to everyone else who got it ages ago) has only come to me as a result of something that has happened to me that I have not completely understood.

I used to love going to daily Mass. The fact that there is no obligation to go, and the immensity and beauty of what it IS, made it so sweet. I really felt drawn, "attracted" by the Infinite. And then, after moving to a new city, I went through a period of dryness; I continued to go to daily Mass, but I no longer experienced that attraction. It was an effort to go, and afterwards I felt the kind of longing you have after a missed opportunity. Eventually, it was too painful to keep going, and I found many different commitments that complicated my schedule to the point where I had no room for daily Mass. This went on for months. Then in September, when my youngest daughter began kindergarten, I decided to go again, but this time without any expectations. I decided to go, saying to the Mystery, "Here I am." This was after months of praying, "Come Holy Spirit, Come through Mary" many, many times a day, and learning this "Here I am" in so many different, difficult situations.

What is the result of this change? I have not recaptured that original experience of wonder, of being drawn as if by an irresistible force. It isn't my own joy, bubbling up and overwhelming me, in response to something exterior. Instead, there is something new, completely and unexpectedly new, that enters in. I feel very little, poor, sober, but free, more intensely alive. I think it's unity: His joy, which is the blood that flows through the whole Body of Christ. That's what I think.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."