Monday, October 04, 2004

Unselfconscious gratuitous acts of love make us most ourselves and unite us to all and to God - "Spir Dev &Gospel Narratives 5" by John Shea

Beatrice Bruteau, in her book The Grand Option, inspired especially by Teilhard de Chardin, expresses a vision of human evolution that would have us be willing and conscious elements that will evolve into a higher order of being all together as a collective human organism. I like it though as a fresh way of looking at the Body of Chirst, the Communion of Saints, and our willing and conscious participation as active members. She explores the distinction between our human nature ridden life and the loftier human/divine transcendence to which Jesus calls us in the Gospels and which the saints obviously attained in their lifetimes.

She says it’s really up to us to move towards a collective awakening that as human beings we are really all united and all responsible together for our collective outcome on this planet. She goes to the root of the Gospel message to seek for an understanding of the giftedness in us and our potential as human beings that can include all of humanity, irrespective of religion or other distinguishing attributes. Christians have been entrusted with the revelation of how we are connected to our Source and with each other; so we have the responsibility to make this good news known. In addition, Jesus has given us as his Church means to remain in communion with Him and be transformed into Him by the Spirit as we accept to love, obey, and follow Him.

As Gandhi took Jesus and his good news to heart and put his approach into practice; so we must follow Jesus literally and actually live the familiar and comforting revelation that we are children of God and in our practice renounce privilege, titles, and influence in exchange for the truth and the solidarity to which it calls us. These are the very same things Jesus formally renounced in the desert as He was tempted, and then continued to renounce until the end. Like Jesus at his Baptism and temptations, we must hear God the Father call us his beloved children, and go discover all that we are not – no magic, no miracles, no domination for the sake of our own interest – and what we are – regarding all as equal, impartial as God is, loving our enemies, pure in fact as well as in ritual, and considering ourselves blessed even in misfortune. Against the entrenched “routine assumption that we are all separate, isolated, but comparable units” we are children of God who do “inherit the nature of our parent” – an integration of the metaphysics of a global spirituality uniting East and West.

As children of God we are incomparable – just as there can be no adequate description of God, so there can be no adequate description of who we are – mysterious and indefinable as God. Any description of our self remains limiting, and points to only a part of who we are. Our true self is mysterious, flowing with life from our Source. We are “transcendent of all descriptions” as God is. Like our Father, we are love, that is, we are most fully ourselves in the very act of loving the other with no interest for or awareness of ourselves, not responding to external stimulation, request, or need, but creatively going out to another – especially those unworthy of our love – such as enemies. God’s love, ever creative and original, is unexpected from the world’s point of view. Loving like God, I become a lover, distinguishing myself from my beloved at the same time that I unite myself to the one I love. The more I love, the more I become who I am, a lover, in the image of God.

When we creatively and freely love another, our distinctiveness as persons is clarified at the same time our love joins us to the other, and our loving them actually brings us into them, and them into us. This is what happens between the contemplative and God. God loves us first, and as we contemplate God we become aware of his love and surrender to it, loving our Lover back. In self-giving love, “each subject sees through the other’s eyes, feels with the other’s heart, wills in conjunction with the other’s will, and flows together with the other’s action.” The more distinct and free the person is, the more perfect their love can be. The original paradigm for such total union is the “perichoresis”, the union of love among the three Divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity, an essential doctrine of Orthodox and Eastern Rite Churches which is at the heart of how they understand and deliberately intend to live their lives of faith in love in following Jesus.

This love truly creates and gives life, enabling the newly beloved to in turn become filled with life and overflow with love to others. God in Jesus visibly pours himself out to give us life; we too become conscious of the deep desire to pour ourselves out into others in love. Inhabited by God’s active love, like Jesus we become “incarnate as creative process” as we too learn to pour ourselves out in love for others. Our “central self is full, luminous life, safe from all injury, and is most itself when it is most giving itself.” It is at the level of person, not of nature, that we pour our love and forgiveness towards others for their future good, whether they accept it or not.

What is
evil in our lives and our suffering both fall in the “order of reaction and choice freedom” within the confines of this physical world and life, but we transcend it by loving impartially like God, simply for the good of the “I am” in the other, ignoring attributes of nature. We are the activity of the Trinity drawing us into their perichoresis – as we live it most deliberately in Holy Communion – uniting with our activity in a moment of self-realization that we are loved and lover, and God unites with us as we love another and in turn unite with their self-realization and outreach of love to a third. This is how we are in the image of the Trinity, persons in union with all other persons, and loving in God’s love, rising above our nature. We can force none to this love, but can
<>freely love others, as Jesus did.

Virgil Elizondo’s “I Forgive but I Do Not Forget” seems to bypass or at least ignore traditional teaching on the 7 capital sins as the root cause of human sinfulness and misery, but it’s only that he makes a very good point, namely, that much of our human misery comes from our originally sinful inclination to cry out for justice when we feel wronged and to secretly desire, if not demand or exact, punishment or vengeance for those who offend us. We just can’t forget wrongs, because our memory of them continues to stimulate feelings like anger, resentment, and desire for revenge or at least to see the offender punished.

He makes a very good case for wanting to be free of these destructive feelings and desires, which I agree eat away at our “innards” until we become free of them, and the only way to do that is to forgive the offender as though we had never been offended at all. I like his conclusion that this means “uncreating” the offense, but as only God can create and uncreate; only God can effectively forgive. We lost our God-given ability to do that in the original sin, and what has now become natural is a deep-seated desire for retribution justice. This enlightens what it means to be enslaved by the law, and why God himself had to come in Jesus to clear a new path, make a new humanity possible, through forgiveness of offenders, which only divine love makes possible.

This text too, like the others we have been reading, affirms that it’s our condition to live in both the flesh and the spirit at the same time. While our remembrance of offenses continues to generate feelings of hurt, anger and desire for retribution justice; our own experience of God’s inexhaustible and undeserved forgiveness, mercy and love set us free to manifest the same superabundant love and mercy to others. This is the new man, the new life in the Spirit which is the freedom of the children of God and such good news. Like Jesus and his Father, we refuse to allow offenses against us to become the basis of our relationships with our offenders or anyone else.

In chapter 8 “The Living One’ of Beatrice Bruteau’s The Grand Option, she seems to pick this up when she states that forgiveness is not directed to the corpse of the past offense, but rather “unites with the other’s creative act of stepping forward into the next moment… is an act of making the future.” Forgiveness is just one dimension of self-giving love that emerges not from the psyche and other elements of my personality, but from the spirit which is profoundly centered in union with God and shares in God’s “sense of sheer ‘I am’… (and) is radiating in all directions the intention ‘May you be!’” The self that we give to others in love is not the self we are normally conscious of, our living soul, but the deeper self, which, united to God, is also a life giving spirit. Agape is more than contemplative or appreciative love, is active, bursting “with energetic desire that there be more being.” Creative, free self-giving desires to bring into being what does not yet exist for the other’s good.

It is this transcendent spirit in us which is our true self – in union with God and flowing from God as its Source – and the new life revealed in Jesus and shared with us since his Resurrection. It is a challenge for us to be aware of this spirit and creative freedom, unpredictable and bringing forth life that is ever new, as our true self and to deliberately live out of it from moment to moment, and to be further aware of pouring ourselves out in love into the same fluid spirit self in others and of all others pouring themselves out in love into us. At this level, we realize that the boundaries of our selfhood are interpersonal to the limits of the Body of Christ, rather than the narrow limits of our psyche and physical traits and awareness. We are so familiar in the confines and comfort of our body/psyche self, that we require spiritual disciplines to cultivate the ongoing awareness of our spiritual self in communion with God and with all the others like ourselves.

In “The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels…” John Shea demonstrates how Jesus provided us with means to live out of this sense of communion with all others through ongoing reconciliation: talking it out one to one, then including a few other people, only then finally appealing to authority, and finally considering the offender as one needing ministry or work. At every stage, relational skills and the willingness to dialogue and be open to other possibilities are necessary for reconciliation to occur.

More importantly, we need to bridge the disparity between the psycho-social level within us and Spirit. Prayerful attention to Spirit can help all those involved get in touch with their deep desire for peace and enter into the process of reconciliation from the deeper spirit self from which radiates the love of God, which makes the process infinitely more fruitful and life giving for all. Our psycho-social self tends to keep a record of wrongs and hurts, so that forgiveness tends to put pressure on letting go of the score keeping; whereas our spirit self is aware of receiving itself from God and more willing to give itself in forgiveness in order to see the future life of the other come to pass in peace and love.

to be continued....

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