"Reality" Eliot would say,
"Is too much for humankind."
Now I know what he meant:
when all things are in focus,
freed from shadows,
when one's ears are unstopped
and one's cataracts removed,
then the knife
twists in the soul
bringing deeper clarity still
like too much sun
on a ski-slope
or intense light
Dark glasses lost,
avoid my burning gaze
as though afraid
of what I might reveal,
afraid, too, of the contagion
that rawness brings
when there is too much
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1989
Greetings, SBT Readers:
Prophets cannot help themselves -- they see beneath the surface and then reveal what they see, sometimes directly, sometimes through indirect means such as storytelling and other art forms. What they share in common is their lack of tolerance for deception of any kind, whether self-deception or the deception of others. In today's Gospel, Jesus as prophet sees through the flattery of his townsfolk. Though they speak highly of him, though they are amazed at his words, still they are waiting to see if this "son of Joseph" can perform mighty deeds in their presence. The allusion to Capernaum suggests that Jesus has already begun his ministry and that news of his skills as healer and miracle worker have reached Nazareth. Seeing through his neighbors' expectations, Jesus refuses to "prove himself"; instead, he does what prophets often do -- speaks bluntly, alienates those who hear him and narrowly escapes with his life.
What with "alternative facts," the outright lies of politicians, "fake news" and real news that is made to
fake, it is difficult to know the Truth these days. Are there rapists, terrorists and murderers trying to storm our borders? Will the scaling back of environmental protections make us more prosperous as a nation? Was the recent government shutdown
a victory for either political party? Will a wall along our southern borders keep out the drug traffic that mostly comes through airports? So many claims, so many contradictions, so much confusion --
what to believe?
Regardless of our political loyalties or vested interests, each of us is called to be prophet, that is, to see as God sees, with absolute clarity. This kind of seeing needs to be cultivated over time; it doesn't happen overnight. First, we have to be willing to see things as they are and not as we wish they were. We need to let go of habitual lenses --lenses of bias and comfort-- and open ourselves to new perspectives. We need to listen to multiple viewpoints and discern which are most aligned with Gospel values. In short, we must be seekers of Truth, not of convenience, who speak Truth and live Truth because that is what Christians are called to do.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful or arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on having its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. Prophecies will come to an end; tongues will be silent; knowledge will pass away…. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.
This much-beloved excerpt from Paul's
Letter to the Corinthians
is a literary gem that frequently graces both secular and religious weddings. Paul's purpose in writing this, however, was not to elevate marital love but to present
The Way of Love
, in other words, a way of loving rightly in imitation of Christ. The community in Corinth had failed to live this love. There were factions among the believers, lapses into idolatry, disorderly conduct during Eucharistic celebrations, discrimination against the poor, claims of superiority on account of spiritual gifts and, perhaps worst of all, the community's failure to deal with a member who was living in incest. Paul greets the Church in Corinth warmly, as its spiritual father; he then addresses each of the problems, urging the Corinthians to return to Christ. His
Way of Love
is the blueprint they --and we-- are to follow.
And what is this
? The opening lines of 1 Cor: 1-13 are so familiar --
"Love is patient, love is kind...."
"Patience" seems strangely old fashioned, perhaps because it is seldom talked about; however, it is a necessary charism that involves allowing others their own process-- time to grow, time to learn from mistakes, time to accomplish some task.... Instead of becoming irritated because someone else is too slow, we need to offer encouragement and support, creating the atmosphere which will allow people to thrive, in their own way, according to their schedules, not ours. Just as God is patient with each of us, forgiving our failings and offering new beginnings, over and over again, so we, too, need to be patient with others. As for being "kind," the translation seems understated. I understand it to mean more than being "kindly disposed" or "kind-hearted," but to be so impelled by the love of God that we respond as God would to our brothers and sisters in need. In other words, we learn to love as God loves rather than in a limited, human way. Perhaps "kind" is closer to "charity," and is more of an action verb than a feeling.
Then follow negative qualities that are the opposite of supernatural Love: jealousy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, stubbornness, irritability, and resentment. These, of course, are vices that have surfaced in the community in Corinth, but they are omnipresent, even to this day. The common denominator with these vices is that they come from the ego or the "false self." The egotistical self is a megalomaniac who cannot tolerate anyone else being center stage or even sharing the limelight; puffed up with pride, this false self of ours feels more powerful when it makes others small. Instead of raising others up, it kicks them down, keeping them in the dust.
In contrast, Love does no harm because it cannot. When one sees as God sees and loves as God loves, then it is impossible to sin. When we live Love, we live on a supernatural plane rather than a mere natural plane. We develop the spiritual capacity to believe, hope, and endure all things in Christ and because of Christ. By loving we become Love. Our finite self becomes the Christ-Self -- and that self is eternal!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Why is Love greater than Faith and Hope?
- How has the Megalomaniac Self surfaced in your life?
- How does the Christ-Self manifest in your life?
- What must YOU do to follow the Way of Love more closely?