Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Look at Myself Without Fear

Giotto, Wedding at Cana (detail), Scrovegni Chapel
What enables us to look at everything–even our mistakes, even this lack of self-awareness–without fear, free from the temptation to justify ourselves (like the publicans, who went to Jesus because only with Him could they be themselves, without having to reject anything of themselves; this is why they sought Him out, why they needed to return to Him–to be able to be themselves, finally)? The certainty of His covenant, the certainty that He will take even our mistakes as an opportunity to make us discover how different He is, who He is. The certainty of this love defines the covenant that God made with us, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Thus says the LORD: ‘In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you, I form you and set you as a covenant for the people, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be. They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; For He who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level. See, some shall come from afar, others from the north and the west, and some from the land of Syene.’ Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the Lord comforts His people and shows mercy to His afflicted.”  Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón 
Because I overslept, I neglected two very important responsibilities this morning: I began my day by breaking two important promises! It was a very hard fall from glorying in the awareness that I've been given another beautiful day in which to live and then a moment later realizing my mistake!  But remembering God's covenant with me makes me ask: does this mean that I wave God's mercy, like a white flag, to signal to those I've wronged that they cannot or should not be disappointed with me? Do I bother apologizing or making amends when, after all, Jesus is planning to use my frailty and error for everyone's good? Maybe those who've been let down by me ought to thank me for sleeping in? LOL. I think all of these options fall into the category of "justifying oneself." God's mercy doesn't justify me. [I like the way that the word "justify" is used in physics: to line things up so that they are in order]. I have some work to do today, and it may take more than one day to get my behavior to line up with reality. But I can undertake this work without shame or pride or anything other than cheerfulness, if I do it within the awareness of His mercy.

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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."