Last Sunday, a mother of three was deeply moved by a sermon from the Norbertine abbey-church. It deeply spoke to her experience of her three daughters. This particular image stayed with her. ‘On a trip, the boy was carrying his younger brother for miles, as he twisted his ancle. When they arrived, the host of the family told him: it must have been quite a burden to you, it must have been a heavy weight. The boy replied, it is not a burden, he is my brother.’
This banal illustration has a profound truth. This truth makes us Christians. We are baptised in the Lord in order to perceive our neighbours in difficult situations just as the boy did in the example of the sermon. He is not a burden: he is my brother.
This wise saying remains a ‘nice saying’ unless we fully understand what is at stake. Today’s readings direct us towards what is at stake, and even more. God clearly tells us that the quality of life we live together depends on our ability to forgive. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?’ Without God, and our faith in our Saviour, it is a mission impossible. Without the Lord as our daily friend, and our toiling on this friendship, our heart will never forgive those who hurt us. On the x-ray image of our hearts what do angels see? Most often our grudges, our unfinished conflicts, our book-keeping of offences and the fault (the blame on) of others.
With our Lord, on our side, this impossible leap is possible. ‘Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times. Unless we can see the offender as our brother and sister in the Lord, forgiving will remain for us a heavy burden. The boy in our story could have said, ‘yes, it was a heavy burden. I am dead tired because of it.’ He would have been right, just as we are right when saying, ‘forgiving is an impossibly heavy burden.’ Yet, with the Eucharist we receive, with the Lord’s daily friendship, with prayer life, and through the daily experience of Divine Love, we can imitate our Lord. Who sees only his brothers and sisters, and not a heavy burden.
Our readings take us even further than realising what is at stake in our forgiving. The quality of our life, that of the community, wholly depends on practicing this ‘impossible forgiveness’. ‘The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.’ The increase or decrease of violence, mistrust, lies, dishonesty, greediness, and indifference in our culture depends solely on us. Our world becomes a better world, a healthier world, a more beautiful world, a more peaceful world if we take up the cross of this impossible task of forgiving.
For when we forgive, we not only reduce violence, and bring the air of peace into the world. Far more happens than that. When we forgive, joy and light come into our life. We get focused, our thinking becomes more efficient, our mind and heart gets more clear, our emotions are more positive and constructive.
Let us think of the victory of the boy in our example, and the victory of Our Lord, which made possible his beautiful confession. He or she is not a burden; not an enemy, not a rival. ‘He is my brother; my sister.’ It is not a burden; ‘It is the Lord!’
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A beautiful image of our Christian dignity, though not a direct one. ‘I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, one shall close, should he close, none shall open…he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house’ (Is 22:23) This shows the dignity of the Christian soul, in our relationship to the office of our Lord. An image comes to our mind, as it were, all of us are ‘knighted’, again, indirectly, by the Father.
All of our readings invite us to see on the side of Christ. They invite us to see the dignity which the participation in his work enthrusts upon us. Thaty is why we pray:‘I thank you, Lord, with all my heart: you have heard the wrods of my mouth.’ This image, from our responsorial psalm, highlights ‘the role of our mouth’, the importance of a permanent and regular prayer.
Thus, as our second reading shows us, we can contemplate ‘how rich are the depths of God, how deep his wisdom and knowledge, and how impossible to penetrate his motives and understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?...To him be glory for ever!’
Regular prayer, both in words and in charity, will enable us to repeat Peter’s words: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!’ Let us think about, what happens, when we share these words. Let it be our prayer, repeated in many times, in many situations. This prayer will make a wonderful difference. Our joy will be increased, the wounds we caused to others, and the ones we received, will be healed, and our heart, and our world, will become more beautiful. At least, closer to the beauty where it is supposed to be.
Let me share a detail of an icon, which shows Christ’s face. The exercise is simple. Just contemplate the beauty of Christ’s divine lips. See in it the wisdom of the eternal Son of God, his outpouring and healing love, the words of his teaching ministry. These lips spoke to Peter; they spoke to the Father, and they are speaking to us. The ‘exercise’ is to link our own mouth to that of our Saviour. Let us imitate him, let us see the positivity of his words, which left his lips, the thoughts, which were formed into words, which went through his throat and toungue. Let this Love purify our thoughts, our mouth, our breathing.
Let we speak, and think, and act, as Jesus intends us to speak, think and act. Let our first words be, before anything else that follows, good resolutions, prayers, those of Saint Peter. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!’
Today’s readings are interesting in terms of God’s interest in us. In brief, God is interested in our story. He never becomes indifferent to what is happening to us. So our special focus today is God’s leaning towards us; towards you. And this is at the heart of Christian witness: God’s divine Love is interested in us! When we pray in the words of the Psalmist, it is only seemingly a one-way communication: ‘O God, you are my God, for you I long.’ But this is not so. Our Gospel acclamation, the prayer with which we welcomed the Gospel, already shifted the emphasis: ‘May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.’
God’s being interested in us lies at the heart of Christian witness. Whatever happens in the world, we are to live as sign posts to the truth that God has never lost interest in our story. In a world of religious indifferentism people are entrapped in their narcissistic ego. Without this witness we are creating an ego (‘me’) centered world.
That’s the value of the ‘Christian personalism’. First, we witness to that God is always interested in our personal stories. God is listening to Isaiah’s personal ordeals. For God, Isaiah’s vocation is precious, just as our personal vocations where we live. ‘You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.’ And then God listens to Isaiah’s need to be rescued: ‘Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.’
Then, our second witness is that God never loses interest in us a praying community: ‘Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.’ God is tireless in forgiving and mercy.
The Gospel fulfils God’s witness to his faithful interest in our lives. Jesus is sent to take upon himself all the sins of the world. His Cross is the sign that, that, literally, for God all lives matter. ‘Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. ’ (Mat 16:21-22)
So let us be challenged by the ending of the Gospel. How would you read Peter’s ‘protest’ to see the Son of God in sufferance for us? How would you read Jesus’ response in terms of our witness? ’If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.’
As followers of Christ, let us join him, and show through our lives and thinking that God, through his Love, is interested in the lives of our neighbours and communities. What forms of witness do you have in mind?
The feast of the Assumption remembers how Mary, at the moment of her death, immediately was taken up to Heaven. The feast celebrates the fulfilment of her complete co-operation with God’s plan for our salvation. All this started with her first Fiat, (let it be according to your will, and continued via her many ‘yes-es’ in support of her son’s redemptive work.)
However, we also celebrate in her our own hoped arrival to the House of Love. She was ‘the first citizen’ of Heaven, who entered it from among us. ‘Let us pray that we will join Mary, the mother of the Lord, in the glory of heaven.’ (Opening Prayer)
These are those aspects of the feast, which our believing intellect can grasp and understand through faith. The human person (‘the speaking being’) starts its journey into language when listening and looking up our mother’s words and face. Similarly, today’s feast is about contemplating Our Mother in order to ‘imitate’ her, and learn the language of our coming life. One of the first 'words' we learn is Mary’s yes to God’s will. ‘Let it be according to Thy word!’ Like the repeating heartbeats of our faith.
But there is a second ‘region’ of meaning of the Assumption. In the coming week, let us meditate on it, all of us, individually… Let us ask ourselves, why is the celebration of the Mother of God is so important, nay, timely today? What is the message of Mary’s divine motherhood? Why is she such an important ‘blueprint’ of our human love? For that human love, which, as she has shown, can intermingle with divine Love itself? In answering this question, I mention two reasons here.
Julia Kristeva observes, as a criticism, that Christianity’s is the last discourse on motherhood, and Life itself, we could add. Our secular culture, which is so clever in many ways, gives zero instruction and support to what it means to be a mother. Our Christian faith, unfalteringly, keeps us evaluating and appreciating the unique role of mothers, and fathers.
Two third of today’s children grow up without the experience of a father’s love. Perhaps the same can be said, in a symbolic way, that two third of people grow up without ‘the Father’s love’, the most precious experience of being brought up in the family of the Church.
That is why it is so important to hold in our hands the ‘hologram’ of the completeness of Love. This unbroken and wholeness of Love is there; is always offered to us to be healed by, to be nourished by, to be guided by, to be brought up by.
If broken families, broken individuals, broken societies -broken neighbourhoods -could contemplate this Emmanuel, this Love-with-us, through our Lady as the mother of all, it would make the missing difference in our lives. It would not sort out our problems, yet, it would be a beginning, a beginning anew with God. Just as the Mary and Joseph had to undertake a challenging, many times a seemingly impossible journey, full of dangers. The Assumption assures us that our paths can be ‘taken up’, and we can continue our journey closer to God, closer to the life and happiness God has envisioned for us, from our mother’s womb.
Finally, the Feast of the Assumption also wants us to be realistic. It is not about an idealising of our coming state. The Assumption is not an escapism into an ideal world vs. the confines of our daily life. Mary's return from earth to Heaven embraces all aspects of our lives. It is a celebration of our daily toiling, the banalities of existence. Not simply that our coming 'assumption' will sanctify it. Today's feast is the celebration of the value of the present moment, that of our present day. For they ground our coming life. They create opportunities to get closer to God. Every single day is part of our soul's ascension. Let us celebrate this mystery today with the Mother of God.
All of our readings in today’s mass can be summed up in a single theme. Namely, how we genuine faith connects us with God. What is the nature of this connection? Why and how is it different from any other power of attachment? Elija finds God not in powerful voices and external spectacles but in ‘the sound of a gentle breeze’. Apostle Paul describes the soul’s union with Christ when our ‘conscience is in union with the Holy Spirit.’ In the Gospel, we saw Peter and Jesus walking on the water, amidst the waves of a heavy sea. The apostle is hold above the water by his faith in Jesus, when his soul is peaceful and doubtless, and rescued by him, when that faith wavers. Inner peace connects him to his Master.
What is your Isaiah-moment of faith? What are your moments of ‘the gentle breath’, what makes you aware of God’s presence? Or, what are those moments, when you are seeking him in the wrong place, in ‘noisy power’, ‘earthquake’ and ‘fire’? What is the strategy, we all have to develop individually, to feel God’s invisible love?
Just after the horrors of the Second World War, the Hungarian writer (silenced by the communists) focused on this hidden presence of God. Despite the different context, it is the same problem: how and where can we perceice God in a world which does not want to seek him? In his book, The Philosophy of Wine, he writes: ‘I decided to write a prayer book for the atheists… I am aware of the difficulty of my task… I know that I cannot utter the word “God”. I must speak of him by using all sorts of other names such as kiss, or intoxication, or cooked ham. I chose wine as the most important name.’ Hence the title of his book, of which opening motto is ‘after all, too will remain, God and the wine.’
What do you choose, from among the variety of your experiences ‘as the most important name’ for God?
Because we must choose a name. Everybody does. And the options are either to find God in the wrong or the right place. To illustrate the point, I have found another quote, this time from a political activist. (You know my opinion about them, they are grave-diggers of truth and peace in society, which peace and social cohesion is the precondition for seeking truth.) ‘When we need to roll out we are uniformed and we can take that energy to our communities. The reason why a lot of youths get into the gangs is because they see the strongest thing is the gangs – they look up to the power…We don’t want to negotiate, we don’t want to sing songs, we don’t bring signs to a gunfight. We are an eye-for-an-eye organisation… We are preparing the community to be able to defend itself from any attack.’
We Christians have a great responsibility and a call for discernment. Is God in the voice of power and aggression? This is not a poetical question for which the answer we can take to be granted. Peter’s sinking when losing Jesus out of focus shows this. Our disappearing in the ‘raging sea’ of our age is a real danger. Our times is buzzing with the fake messiahs. Their tempting voice is followed by aggression, violence and destruction. That’s the nature of evil; devil’s pottery with fragile lives.
That’s why it is so important to live consciously with Jesus, and spend our best hours of the day with him. We need to cry daily with Peter, ‘Lord, save me!’ And to this request, Jesus always says: ‘Come!’ Let us go, and seek Him in the right place, where he is. Let us be different, as we ought to be, in our response to the question, ‘where God can be found?’ In the sound of a gentle breeze, in the conscience in union with the Holy Spirit, in our courage to cling to Christ. So, in other words, what are the deeds which reveal God’s presence most? In our coming week.
Being Embraced by God (18 OT A)
Last week, we could observe something very interesting in our readings of the Lectio Divina. We found it difficult to relate to the ongoing plots and wars of the kings of Israel. We particularly found it with unease to relate to wars and cruelty. We grasped that at the heart of these events was the betrayal of the God of the Covenant.
This Sunday (just as the past few ones) the contrast is enormous with these ‘week-day wrestling’ with our heavy texts. All of our readings can be summed up in terms of ‘being embraced by God’. ‘O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me!’ (entrance antihpon). ‘Draw near to your servants, and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness’ (Collect). ‘Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Buy corn without money, and eat, and at no cost, wine and milk.’ (Isaiah 55:1-3)
So let us focus on this contrast between the ‘real world of pain’ of our week-day readings (1, 2 Chronicles) and the joy of being embraced by God, and our clinging to this embracing God.
During the unfolding of the struggles of the prophets, gradually a conclusion, a kind of summary occurred to me. Actually, there is a profound connection with our age. The historical dramas are always there in the life of the faithful. History always comes upon us as crisis. The people suffer, things happen to families and individuals which they can’t prevent. And all in the midst of it God, before he comes to rescue us, asks us to return to him. That we listen to him, that we first embrace his saving words. We could see in those readings that the stake is high. If the people don’t listen, their faith, then their historical existence will be dispersed. They will disappear in the senseless karma of history.
Our age, today with the global epidemic of Covid 19 is exactly the same historical situation. It raises the same challenges to faith. First, we should repent and return to God. First, we should listen to his life-giving words. And it is these challenging moment of crisis when we should prove the most faithful. Our observance, our moral and financial support to our community is more timing than ever before.
Today’s Gospel give us a vital support. Saint Paul tells us, as an encouragement, that ‘nothing can come between us and the love of Christ. Even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted.’ Nothing can prevent us to live daily in the love of Christ. In his joy. Via his tenderness. Jesus shows us that sad news don’t turn off God’s loving embrace and sustenance. ‘When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.’ Yet, he continually shares that embrace of love which his Father offers him. So the next moment he shares with them his food. ‘And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to to crowds. They all eat as much they wanted.’
Pope Francis sums up this Biblical dynamic of suffering and being lifted up as God’s response to our turn to him in faithfulness. ‘Friendship with Jesus cannot be broken. He never leaves us, even though at times it appears that eh keeps silent. When we need him, he makes himself known to us (Jer 29:14); he remains at our side wherever we go (Jos 1:9). He never breaks his covenant. He simply asks that we not abandon him: “Abide in me” (Jn 15:4). But even if we stray from him, “he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim:13).’
Finally, as a visual illustration, let us contemplate our points about ‘pain in history’ and God’s never-ending embrace in the icon of the Loving Tenderness. The mystery of tenderness is beyond words. The shadow on the face of Mary is the shadow of his son’s coming suffering. Symbolically, the Mother of All is worried about our present sufferings. Yet, we can see God’s loving, over-arching embrace to console His mother, and us. When human and divine love are united (our turn to God in faith and love), it is a powerful defence against all the odds of history and personal life. God’s joy, God’s loving embrace to be extended to others by us can never be broken. In our Eucharist, let us rejoice over this fact.
Pope Francis’ letter to young peple is a timely read. It speaks to all ages. On the one hand, it helps us to rejuvenate our love for the Gospels and the Kingdom of God. For there is ‘something’, a part of our soul, which is never aging. The Holy Spirit creates a ‘spark’ in us, as part of his presence, and stays with us. While listening to what the Pope says, we are brought back to this first love. We can even sense, how Francis is re-living those moments of youthful passion for Christ, now, through the lens of his wisdom.
There is a second reason as to why this is a timely reading. Psychology and common experience knows that fear and anxiety causes aging. The skin, the face, but most importantly, our internal organs, our whole body grews older under the years of stress.
Covid 19 has been an immense pressure on all of us. That’s why we need to lift up our souls. The experience of daily joy in the Holy Spirit is our ‘anti-aging of the soul.’ Cherishing and bringing surface to the ‘spark’ of the Holy Spirit will give fresh strength to our love.
In illustration of this ‘spark’, I found a beautiful detail in an icon of Saint Mark. The cover of the Gospel shows the rays of Christ teaching in our soul. These are the rays of joy and love, and charity.
There is an added meaning to this spark. This is how Pope Francis urges us to valuate and revaluate the present moment. Let the moments of our friendship, here and now shine in our lives, for ourselves (rejuvenation) and for others (charity).
I would like to share an image, the icon of the ‘Supreme Humiliation’. This is a very moving image of the dead Christ, when Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb. As an icon, however, it is incredibly rich in themes. This representation is also a great witness to all the mysteries of Christian faith. The reason I have chosen it is its immense therapeutic power.
At the crossroads of our life this image can be a ‘game-changer’. When a person, or a culture like ours being engulfed with unsolvable problems runs out of words, we should stop and contemplate the image of Christ. Let this image speak to us today.
The image is an endpoint of a life. However, it is also a totally new beginning. We see Christ’s body touched by the Light of the Resurrection. Seconds later, he is fully alive!
There is a pear-like glow of light in this icon. This light comes from within. This golden light, with its clarity is full of joy. Full of the anticipated joy of the Resurrection. It is in a stark contrast with the darkness of the Cross. With all the, literally, dead-ends, and failures of our love. This contrast of shadow and light resonates so well with today’s words of the Gospel: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.’ From the soil of our present moment something incredibly joyful can arise!
For me, this icon is about this moment of finding what is lost in our life. This image brings to the fore that Christian faith is about the joy of finding our Lord! Christian faith is to be marked by this positive thinking and experience: we rejoice, because we found the Messiah; because we are found by Him! That’s why the light dominates in this image.
Our icon, to link it to today’s readings, is a humble request for a ‘discerning heart’. An alive, beating heart of discernment which is fine tuned to good. Or, ‘God called and intended us ‘to be the true images of his Son.’ (Saint Paul)’ I would like to mention here that Saint Paul’s words also speak to those of us who are in need of healing. When you look at this pre-resurrection body of Jesus, we can recognsie ourselves in a kind of ‘paralysis’. When our hope, our emotions are stiff, motionless, when the soul and body is in the bondage of illness. This image is a powerful companion for those who feel low, struggle with depression, loss of purpose in life, even with break-down. The good news for us is our potential for rebirth. With that light of Life, by God, we shall come alive. Just as our Covid-19 stricken world shall and our hope, faith and love will emerge unharmed. Joyful again.
Contemplating this image together reading our lives and seeking our Lord as the source of our renewal and joy is important for another reason. Our entrance antiphon captures this beautifully. Drawing joy and health from this Healing Image will unite us. We will experience that our individual search is actually a common path. We are never alone. We are never meant to be alone in our joy. This fellowship of thanksgiving, and asking for healing, places us, catapults us, into God’s ‘holy place’. So we realise that God is our joy, that God ‘who unites those who dwell in his house; he himself gives might and strength to his people.’
Let this icon of ‘the light of the pearl’ bring us to the joy of looking at our brothers and sisters, as ones who share the same light and same joy. The greatest miracle that can happen to us is recognizing that we all belong to the Kingdom of God. Let us this recognition, with its consequences shape our lives and correct those things in us which need to be corrected.
Light and Darkness in Us
There is something puzzling in religion, particularly when it is practiced regularly. Many noticed this, literally, painful paradox. When we catch ourselves in this situation, we feel confused. What I am talking about is the ‘split’, or what we experience as a split, between our ‘Christian self’, and our downfalls. When, in the very next moments to what is our ‘better self’ -attentive to and yearning for God, thinking as one should according to the Gospel -we fall. This is the situation which is often judged by the outside: ‘he/she drinks wine but preaches water.’ This moment of underachievingis what disturbs me. Is it because I am that bad, and what is not good in me, is unmasked in terms of an inevitable fall? Is the falling Christian person indeed that shallow, even a ‘liar’? Our environment, when this shadow-side of our surfaces, rightly judges that moment. The pain we feel is double. We have fallen, yes, and on top of that we feel shame because we are seen as one with our manifest fall. The complexity of that shame could be examined in length. Is it a genuine remorse what we feel? Or is it a narcissistic shame, that we don’t want to be seen negatively? Being crucified for good for that one, totalized mistake.
Or, despite the objective wrong, what we did, there is another way of seeing our mistakes? I would like to believe that there is room for a more positive reflection. While it is true that religious repetitive practices and rituals are inevitably building up in us ‘our religious superego’. And true, that superego (our ego-ideal) can, and inevitably fails. As we never coincide with our ideal (or desired) self. If we think that we do, that vision will necessarily and spectacularly fail.
So how can we see our failures in a different light? Practicing Christians inevitably intake a ‘regular dose of light’, as it were. Which light, as mentioned above, can be a building block of both a rigid (unchallenged, merciless) superego and a humbler, though failing, reflective self. The point I am trying to outline is that the failing Christian should not be disheartened. Divine Mercy -grace, Jesus’ teaching, and love -enters into our heart for a different purpose. The regular intake of this light inevitably will bring to surface our ‘shadows’. It touches, provokes, disturbes that whole web of negativity, sin, wrong thinking, bad motivations, mistrust, even hatred which is part of our fabric.
Regular prayer and communion aim at precisely this regular disturbance. Our ‘failures’, of course, are in the possible starkest contrast with the Light. Yet, grace wants to constantly remind us that there is a living volcano of ‘non-love’ seething in us. We need to be aware of it, and grace will surely make it know, however painful this encounter is.
I do think that without this encounter with grace, one also would fail. Most probably that failure would be less painful, if not unnoticed. So, there is no point of gloating over Christians’ failure and pointing fingers to. We should keep ‘taking the light’, the Holy Communion and the Word of God. The Light will do its wok in us. Hopefully disperging and removing the thickest core of darkness in us. What we can benefit of it most is learning mercy towards those who fail, even cause harm, or sin against, us.
There is never a perfect answer to mystery of the chaos and the life of darkness in us. This ‘split’ in us always requires a Loving Messiah.
The history of humankind is marked by cultural revolutions. Time and again, a new paradigm occurs. And that new aim with its force starts organizing the whole life of society. This ‘main agenda’ often consists in a new technological invention, like the steam machine, electricity, nuclear energy, information technology, which then, ‘revolutionise’ how economy and trade works, and how people think. To these major shifts we can also see how a counter-reactions occur, with an equally revolutionary force. They try to understand, to critique, or correct the ‘zeitgeist’. We can mention for example, Marxism, Fascism, Communism, different forms of philantrospism, the green-thought, and new political and religious movements.
One of the major revolutionary responses to our modern world was Freud’s psychoanalysis. In a world which ignored women’s experience, which enforced a competitive and rationalist mindset, Freud turned to the unconscious. His great discovery was the analysis of dreams. In a hyper-rational world, which was governed by unexamined sexual desires and power aspirations he listened to the unconscious. Dreams, free associations, which are not under the control of the ego and the mind, or other forms of authority, became the medium of healing and self-understanding. Listening to what is oppressed in us, oppressed creativity, oppressed yearning for tenderness, equality, and freedom remains our deepest need. So the agenda of Freud has not disappeared at all.
In our crazy, and in many ways oppressive world, we need a similar type of comprehensive understanding. But who will listen to us? Who will help us to tell our stories? Not only ‘what we are’ but who we are. With our deepest desires for flourishing?
We Christians are given a powerful image (powerful images) of self-understanding. ‘The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray [think, feel] properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit according to the mind [love] of God.’ The Holy Spirit is stated here as both: our unlistened unconscious and our helping friend.
Why have I drawn the parallel with Freud method? Covid 19 caused, and has been causing an unparalleled trauma in us. There have been many things unexamined and unresolved in our lives before the pandemic. They caused illness, inflicted upon us wounds, and generated similar wounds in society in terms of oppression, social injustice, harm to nature, etc. Now, with Covid 19, all these burning issues were even deeper suppressed. We buried a volcano of problems which, if unexamined, will ‘distort us’, and make us crippled psychologically and morally. Like Freud’s patients had been a century ago.
‘May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us!’, we sang in our Gospel antiphon. The parable of the darnel (the suffocating week) sowed among the good seed is a powerful ‘psycho-analytical’, in our context, ‘soul-analytical’ image. The moral of the story is that discernment and careful treatment is needed. Meditating on, and praying through ‘our unconscious’ is required. ‘First collect the darnels and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.’
We can see that spiritual life is a serious business. It is joyful but it requires daily toiling. We need to ‘submerge’ into something what is more powerful than our capacity for self-healing. We need to descend into the depths where the Spirit prays in us ‘in a way that could never be put into words’ on our own.
If we want to have healing for ourselves and for our world, we must enter into this larger see of Love, charity and prayer. Think of the vast sea of the Psalms. Think of our long readings from the Bible in the Morning and Evening Prayer. Think of receiving the Communion and celebrating the Mass weekly, if not daily. Think of your days and meals, which you, in a conscious way, share with Christ.
Let this Christian revolution of self-understanding, in our post-Freudian world, in our covid-19 world, begin with us, today, from this very hour.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..