Saturday, January 26, 2013

God Smacks

This is my reaction to last Sunday's Gospel reading at my church.  I was so moved by Fr. Francis's sermon that I searched through the cough drop wrappers, the hair bands, the left handed gloves, and other mommy-purse detritus for a writing implement (red Sharpie) and something to write on (bulletin insert from the previous week).  The reading from last week was the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (scroll down the page for the Gospel reading).  So (and forgive me, Lord), "ho hum" -- we've all heard it before.... blah blah blah, Jesus's first miracle, listened to his mamma and did what she asked, water into wine, etc. etc. etc."  Until Fr. Francis started to unpack this for us. (Notice the TWO BY FOUR!!! comment at the bottom of the page there?).  In case you can't read my scrawl (a very likely possibility since I was writing only for myself and with Sharpie using a soft-cover missalette and my knee as a desk), I said:

Ask God to change water into wine for you.  Wedding feast at Cana shows that we have a miracle working God and God doesn't change.  He can do miracles in your life.  Always come to God with whatever questions you have.  Whatever we ask God in faith, we will receive.

This God smack was another in series that really started last week at my School of Community.  I heard someone whom I don't know all that well allude to a moment of humiliation that he'd experienced years and years ago --  a moment of humiliation that was, in the scheme of things, small.  And yet, it bothered him; more accurately, it upset him that this moment still stung many years later.  He couldn't figure out why it still mattered to him; he didn't know what God was asking for him to do with this moment and with his continuing reaction to it. 

I offered something from my heart that I truly meant but that, as I was speaking, I realized that I don't apply to myself.  I told this man something like:

maybe God wants you to regard that person that you were in that moment of humiliation with the same sense of love and tenderness and compassion that He does. Maybe God wants you to regard this moment and its recurring effect on you as an opportunity to know his love.  Look at yourself with mercy and not with judgement.  Know that this is how God looks at you, with such tenderness for your pain and sorrow, even over something that is insignificant.  Because, if it is significant to you, it's significant to him....

As I struggled to finish what I was saying without starting to cry, I reflected also on the reading we were discussing, from Luigi Guissani's At the Origin of the Christian Claim.  In it, Fr. Guissani says, in discussing "The Value of the Person":

A fundamental factor of Jesus' outlook is the existence in man of a reality superior to any other reality subject to time and space.  The whole world is not as worthy as the most insignificant human person.  Nothing in the entire universe can compare with a person, from the first instant of his conception until the last step of his decrepit old age. Every man possesses within himself a principle by which he depends on no one, a foundation of inalienable rights, a fount of values.

It occurred to me as I was reading this passage in preparation and as it was being read to me within School of Community that I intellectually assent to this statement.  I can build castles in the air as to why it's based in natural law, Greek philosophy, Christian theology, and scientific fact -- my excellent and (by the way truly life-changing) education at the University of Dallas gave me the tools to do that with ease.  But I don't regularly act as if I assent to this idea when it comes to myself.  I can look at others -- my husband, my children, my relatives and friends, and even strangers who touch  my life only briefly and see that they are absolutely unique, miraculous, awe-inspiring  creatures. 

But, me, well, I'm okay but I need a lot of work.

Just now, I started to write, "I suppose I need to try harder to be more cognizant of the reality that this unique value also applies to me." but even this is not what I mean.  What I mean is that I am trying to rest in the knowledge that this does apply to me, whether or not I am a nice person, whether or not I am successful in work, or have a neat and clean home, or good and virtuous children, or damnit, whether I lose the weight I need to lose for reasons of health and functioning. 

I need to rest in (not strive for) the knowlege that I myself am the protagonist in Psalm 139, that David sings with my voice:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

More on this in another post on yoga, breathing, and reading.  I asked my husband for some time to write tomorrow (read:  please take the children out) and he sweetly agreed....


  1. Col, It sounds like you are starting to see the bigger picture and not just the individual details. XO

  2. Wonderful - Looking forward to what you write! Eileen