THE BETTER YOU
Persons of any sensitivity recognise the need to be better than they are. Boorish persons are quite satisfied with themselves, but this can be because they do not understand themselves or know themselves in any real way. With some of them, the facility of introspection seems absent. This can be because their mothers taught them that we are what we do. With the result that they have become a human doing rather than a being with powers of reflection and agency.
Such a person falls naturally into legalism. Because this is what they are legalism is their version of God. They live from a self-devised contractual relationship with God consisting of formulaic fundamentals which they imagine are easy enough to master, but have little to do with real Godliness. Sadly this kind of imagination leaves them with a dormant spirit and a crippled soul.
Earnest Carrere writes, “about a very elemental reality: being human. One does not have to agree with Kierkegaard that being human is becoming human, but we all recognize that to some measure we must deepen the person we are and that the task is a challenging and never ending concern.” (1)
GRACE AND TRUTH
The making of a decent person lasts a life-time. Jesus was more than decent and ‘full of grace and truth.’
Once we learn that we can be good people because of what we are before what we do, we can make some progress in liberation from selfishness and the notion that we are the center of the universe. It’s not hard to develop a formula and mode of behaviour in which we cast ourselves as being some kind of benefactor of humanity - a mode in which we demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we are making a contribution to society – and maybe we are. But this does not negate the fact that our life is about us and self is the center of our universe.
We can manufacture a husk that might fool most people most of the time but not ourselves. We can give of ourselves in charitable pursuits and minister in some form to the betterment of humanity – while all the while being bound in narcissism. It can run in families.
There is nothing selfish about oneness with God. It’s the process of becoming nothing in order to become everything. Richard Rohr calls this living in the ‘naked now’ because it’s a life with Christ plus nothing. Not a religion. Not a belief system or an intellectual structure. It’s incarnation: Christ as us. In this ‘living way’ we become our true selves as life-givers and people of grace.
If we could live from this bread rather than from the junk food of self-vindication or religion we would be more human and more Godly. There is a way which is to invite the life of the trinity to be woven into our being with the result that we are the manifestation of Christ. When Christ is our life all we do and are is the fruit of the tree of life.
After the Second Vatican Council many Catholics of serious Christian intent began to question the basic structures of Catholic life, as well they may because sooner or later sensitive people become aware that what they are doing is not in fact God or even Godly. They become aware that God is not institutions and may even be quenched by the doctrines they have held as ‘truth’.
The more daring re-examine the basic assumption of their faith and the foundations of their theology. The honest among them discover that they have spent too long attached to myths, that the truth of Christ their life has been veiled and even that what they have believed in as the gospel of the Kingdom is such a perversion of the same that they have been attached to cunningly devised fables.
CONTAINER NOT THE REALITY
“In the monastic community not a few took for “Granted that "the contemplative life" is sterile, foolish, wasteful, selfish and that it serves no purpose but to keep monks immature, walled off from contemporary reality, in a state of self-delusion, dedicated to childish formalities.” (2) This has an affinity with Protestants who can be glued to icons of their faith, to habitual routines, to moralisms and legalisms that they think are the fabric of Christianity when they are the container and not the reality.
The seed, root and Branch of the Christian life is Christ come in our flesh – Christ our life and Christ in us, the hope and realisation of the glory of the human condition.
When Jesus came among us physically, He did not contain Himself in a tower or a temple. He walked in the ordinary life of ordinary folks. When Jesus came by the Spirit at Pentecost He came to manifest Himself in men and women of ordinary pursuits who would become extraordinary daughters and sons because each of them had become the manifestation of the Christ.
(1) In the preface, ‘Contemplation in a World of Action by Thomas Merton.’