Friday, April 13, 2012

Why I Believe

The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light.  The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day.  The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven.  In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them.  No, they are not gods.  They are shining bodies created by the one God.  But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here?  Light makes life possible.  It makes encounter possible.  It makes communication possible.  It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible.  And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible.  Evil hides.  Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness.  It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act.  To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love.  Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good.  And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence only through denial.  It is a “no”.

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”.  The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed.  Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew.  “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave.  Life is stronger than death.  Good is stronger than evil.  Love is stronger than hate.  Truth is stronger than lies.  The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light.  But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days.  With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew.  He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness.  He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

Homily, Easter Vigil 2012

Reflection – The battle between light and darkness is a cosmic one that occurs in all of our souls. In all of us there is a capacity and indeed a desire for truth, encounter, freedom, gift, goodness, and love. In each of us, alas, there is a capacity and a disordered desire to hide, to snatch, to steal, to lie, to deny, to isolate. Every human life bears the marks of this battle; every human life is shaped by the choices we and those around us make to live in light or in darkness.

Darkness and light—running through the heart and the life of each human person. It is no great wonder that so many of the most ancient philosophical/religious systems of thought we know of were highly dualistic, positing two these equal or quasi-equal forces contending for supremacy in the world. It is a most logical and even empirical theory to explain what we are all living.

The creation account explodes this dualism. ‘Let there be light’, and there is light, and light is good. God—the one truly cosmic power—is the maker of light, and so reality is entirely ordered towards light, goodness, truth, relationship, and love. And God in Christ plunges the Uncreated Light of the Godhead into the heart of darkness. ‘Let there be light’, and there is light shining at that very heart.

You know, I don’t often speak very personally on this blog (a little bit, but I’m not so much into spilling my guts, here or most anywhere!). But I would have to say very simply that I have faith in the Resurrection of Christ most deeply because over and over again in my life, in the darkest of dark hours, in times of great sadness or hopelessness or suffering (and yes, I have had them), there have been these… moments, you know? Hard to define, hard to describe, but all of the sudden Jesus shows up in the middle of it all, don’t ask me how.

And darkness flees. Or even if something of the suffering remains, it changes, dramatically, radically. Hopelessness flees. Despair despairs of me.

This has happened in my life more often than I could count. So here I am, a Christian, a Catholic priest even, by the strange grace of God. And I believe in the resurrection. I really do. ‘Let there be light’, and light has shone, alleluia. Such has been my experience.

4 comments:

  1. I have no doubt and in fact personal experience of darkness. With all my might I tried desperately to escape all the years I have suffered in darkness trapped in the abyss of sadness, hopelessness (despair) and repressed anger by fear. I drank myself into oblivion to drown out the dark only to create a false illusion of joy. I have ten years ago now received the grace to be able to escape the bottle but only through very loving and supportive folks that allowed me to climb out from under the baby bottle of comfort.

    But now the purpose of my posting. I was struck by the following comment you made, “Every human life bears the marks of this battle; every human life is shaped by the choices we and those around us make to live in light or in darkness.” I do hope that perhaps you will expand in further posts to those who are so burdened with suffering that the option of “choice” you speak of can very illusive. Choice resides in the will but only in connection with the “passions” being integrated with “reason” to inform the “will” (choice) (no time to cite the Catechism here). And yes our lives interact with “those around us’ who supposedly make choices. Yes, we must learn to integrate (emotion, reason and will) to make choices but choice is fruitless unless at first our goodness is reflected back to us from another. One of my favorite readings is posted below less I forget not by my own efforts I am where I am. Since you are such an elegant writer perhaps one day you can post a reflection on Ratzinger’s writing below regarding the “root of man’s joy.”

    God Bless,
    Lynn

    Ratzinger: “The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.

    “Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life, she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist. This is the root of the phenomenon known as hospitalism. When the initial harmony of our existence has been rejected, when that psycho-physical oneness ahs been ruptured by which the ‘Yes, it is good that you are alive’ sinks, with life itself, deep into the core of the unconscious – then birth itself is interrupted; existence itself is not completely established…. (T)he charism of revolution has been for a long time not just remonstrance against reparable injustices but protestation against existence itself, which has not experienced its acceptance and hence does not know that it is acceptable. If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: ‘It is good that you exist’ – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. For it is the way of love to will the other’s existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the thou; the way to the thou leads through the I.”[3]

    [3] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.

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    1. Thank, Lynn - I will use the quote you provided. Always great to get input from you.
      Re: your comments. Well, I would fully agree that we are shaped not only by our choices and those of others - clearly we are plunged into a world where much is simply 'given' as the circumstances of our life - our own choices do shape what will become of us, but within those definite frontiers.
      Mind you (and I'm just thinking out loud here) our faith informs us that primary among those givens, even in the darkest circumstances and most painful situations, is the grace of God. Ultimately, because of that, even the most broken and abused and traumatized are not finally limited by these realities. Ultimately, God will and does break all of us out from the tomb and lift all of us up from whatever Hell we may find ourselves in, if we want Him to. Ultimately...

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  2. One more comment if I may. Your comment, “In each of us, alas, there is a capacity and a disordered desire to hide, to snatch, to steal, to lie, to deny, to isolate.. Truly, truly I understand we have a “darkened intellect” but generally I avoid the expression of a “disordered desire”. But rather say that our desires (an emotion from the liked object) are good and if we must speak of a “disorder" than that would be of the intellect. Nice explanation of the goodness of emotions in the Catechism.
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a5.htm

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    1. Well, intellect and will, apprehension and appetite are so deeply intertwined in our humanity, I would argue that it's a distinction without a difference. However, I realize many people feel that 'emotions' get condemned or degraded, so I take your point about language.

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