Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where is gold found?

We often hear it said: "If only all Christians were like him," or: "If only all priests were like that." Such comments ... are symptomatic of an attitude which impoverishes the person who adopts it. For it is an illusion to think that we would automatically react differently to a truth if we had met it through another type of person. This conclusion is illusory because it means endowing a simple and often understandable reaction of like or dislike in regard to a given person with the dignity of a judgment. A gold prospector would never have been daunted by the mud of the river bed where he hoped to find nuggets. Rather, he would have been motivated by the probability of finding gold, not by the conditions he might have to face in order to come across it. It is terrible then to think how easily, in contrast, man can be detached from the problem of his destiny, to the extent of renouncing the gold because of the mud that comes with it. But as we were saying, the problem is one of judgment: a man, daunted by the mud of their rivers, has not taken into account the fact that it is the gold of life which is at stake (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church, page 131).
What is this "truth" that we meet through other persons? Someone once said, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." To meet truth is to meet Him.
This, therefore, is the dramatic implication of the method God has always used: everything depends on freedom. In no other sphere, either of thought or of achievement in history, does freedom play such an important tole as in the vision Christianity proposes of man, of society, and of history. However, if, as we have seen, the divine message the Church proposes to us must pass through human reality -- through a limitation, something finite -- it is for this very reason that we know for certain that human freedom will never be able to realize this ideal to its fullest extent: the human vehicle in the Church will always seem inadequate in comparison with all that it presumes to bring to the world. But the point we are making is precisely this: God has bound himself to this, the individual's highly personal application of freedom, to the specific way in which every single man responds to the capacity for the infinite which is in him, to the requests of God. This is why any of us may well encounter generous Christians and not so generous ones ... The divine passes definitively through the channel of person freedom in its communication of self. It is interesting to observe the Christian way of life from the point of view of freedom. If, in fact, a man says something that is right and does not put it into practice himself, we who notice it have our backs to the wall in the face of our ultimate responsibility (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church, page 134).
Human freedom is imperfect and always will be, but God chooses it as his vehicle to communicate himself to us.
When Jesus said: "Blessed is he who will not be shocked by me" (Luke 7:2) he meant, do not be shocked by what I might say and do, however paradoxical that might appear. In the same way, we can say: blessed is the man who does not reject a value because of an imperfection in its bearer ... Even today, if we are intent on finding fault with those who proclaim Christianity, or if we are waiting to be shocked, this is only an excuse for never adhering, for never having the need to change. For, in any case, there will always be faults, and to opt to fix one's gaze on them only means to make the fatal choice not to scan our horizons searching for what is worthwhile. Jesus again stigmatizes this excuse, when he replied to a new objection raised by the Pharisees that his disciples did not observe the tradition of washing their hands before meals: "How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition" (Mark 7:9) -- and this is the unhappy attitude of which we can still become prisoners today.
However, the Church was saved throughout the centuries by all those who, in their pursuit of the truth and reality, in their love of value and the ideal, were not shocked by the limitations, by the grip of circumstance, by the apparent incomprehensibility of human affairs, and who set out resolutely in the search for the object of their love, to find the treasure hidden in the mud. In this way, they showed the world and history that their eyes and their hearts were trained on the treasure and not the mud (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church, page 137-138).
This is the challenge of the Church today (perhaps it has always been our challenge, from the moment Thomas was shocked by his companions and would not believe they had seen the risen Christ?). If I have a New Year's resolution (and I don't believe in them, actually), it is to notice each time I am shocked or scandalized and then thrust my whole self into the mud so that I can bring up gold.

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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."