Sunday, August 05, 2018

To tattoo or not... I feel incomplete....

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


Dear reader, perhaps you or someone you know feels incomplete.

This is an important discovery, because it is our human condition since the "fall" of the first human beings - whoever they were and however many they were - from the intimate friendship and communion with their and our Creator. Incomplete is what we actually are now without the moment by moment intimate communion with the Holy Spirit and, in this divine person, with the Father and the Son, who is also the human Jesus. This realization has been verified countless times by all the saints.

To tattoo or not to tattoo

Of course, a human person is free to have a tattoo burned into their flesh, but it will add nothing to who they are. In fact, the recent suicide of "Zombie Boy" I think is a sad illustration of this truth that tattoos don't help a person become more complete or more fully who they are. This is so true that to all appearances he could no longer live with himself as tattooed and apparently felt lost without the ability to get back to who he used to be before the tattoos.

All about appearances

How a person appears shows at first glance through what others see and hear, but mostly it radiates from within, from who you really are, and the countless ways in which you give expression to who you are in yourself and who you choose to be for others. All these things evoke in others thoughts and feelings, one way or another, but other people are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, words and behavior just as we are responsible for our own thoughts and feelings, words and actions, and attitudes and behavior.

Discovering and "navigating" the "deep currents" within us

Who you really are is not only all that is within you, all the thoughts, feelings, images and imagination, memories, desires, hopes and fears, and soul / spirit interior movements which are the deep currents within us.... Who you really are is much more....

Have you noticed the deep currents that sometimes rise closer to the surface as a hunger, or a thirst, or an aching need within you? These were built into us by our Creator.... They are a little bit like the "instincts" that guide the Canada geese and all the other amazing migratory birds to fly to their proper destinations, but in us, they orient us to face the beauty and wonder of our Creator and to listen - to hear and give attention to - the whispering of the Holy Spirit deep within. In a sense, just as birds migrate back to the place of their birth, we human beings are drawn back to the "place" of our creation, which is not our mother's womb but the divine being which is our Creator.

Who and what is God, really?

We know from the Jewish Scriptures and from Jesus and all that He said and did that God is a divine being. We don't really know or understand what that really means, but we have to try to talk about it, to understand, because we are fascinated by God. We are told that we are created "in the image and likeness of God"; so by looking at others and looking within ourselves we can see something of what God is like, but not everything. I am a single being that is human and I am a single person, but God is a single being that is divine and not a single person but three persons; so God is - we could say - a community of persons but one being.

In 1996 I was for 6 weeks in Rome for the "Stage de Rome" with 11 other priests. One day we met an Orthodox woman professor who gave us a lecture about the differences between our "western" way of understanding everything and the Orthodox way. Regarding what it means to be human - in the West we understand a human being to be a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit. The Orthodox take a broader view and understand that in order to be fully human we need to welcome the divine presence of God who is spirit within us and also cooperate with our Creator's plan for our full development towards complete abundance of life.

The Holy Spirit... the One whom native people call "Manitou" or "Great Spirit"

In other words, a human being is indeed a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, and soul / spirit, but is not yet complete without the indwelling presence of God. It is the Holy Spirit who "fills" us with the divine life-giving presence, vitality, and love of the Father and the Son, Jesus. That means then that a human being is a living organism composed of body, mind, heart / psyche, soul / spirit, and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

All the saints came to understand through experience that in order to be more complete and to feel more complete we need to avoid anything that might be "repugnant" to this divine being from whom we come and to whom we are returning, and also to try to do all we can that would be pleasing to "them" - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Paul wrote and taught that what this means is that God loves to dwell within us to fill us with all the vitality, love, peace, and joy that we can contain. The only thing God will not do is to participate in anything we do that is not true, not good, not beautiful, or not self-sacrificial or self-giving love / communion.

Ever our Divine companion but never our accomplice in wrong

A simple way I understand this would be to say that when I choose to do something wrong, I cannot force God be stay with me and be my "accomplice". As I move in the direction of doing something wrong or that will not give life or love to anyone, it's as if God "steps outside of me" and patiently waits, is sad for me, and then says "Okay, are you done now, can I come back to be with you again? Can we go home now and be together again?"

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - lived in the 16th century and is considered to be one of the "reformers" of the Church in answer to the Protestant Reformation. More importantly, he is acknowledged to be the greatest teacher in human history about the "interior life" within us human beings.

Discerning our interior "movements"

He taught and wrote something called the "Rules for the Discernment of Spirits" which helps us to understand what is really going on inside of us all the time, all the apparently confusing "currents" in our interior thoughts, feelings, and dispositions.

In the first two rules out of 14, he teaches basically that when we are about to do something good, true, beautiful, and loving, the Spirit of God encourages and consoles us - which makes us feel good - but the "enemy of humanity" introduces into us contrary feelings and thoughts to obstruct our good intention. On the other hand, when we consider doing something that is not good, not true, not beautiful, and not loving, the enemy of humanity congratulates us, cheers us on, tantalizes us with anticipation of pleasures and rewards, and ultimately to push us off the cliff into self-destruction. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God is the One who tries to hinder and obstruct us, to delay or divert us from actually doing anything that might be self-destructive or harmful to others.

When I consider all the people in my life, and especially those whom I love and are closest to me, I may not agree with all they say or do, but if anything, because of the love with which God loves me, my love for them will only grow with time. I believe it is the same with our parents, siblings, and children, despite at times distressing appearances to the contrary. Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out....

Now, dear reader, if you will permit, I will digress.... This is just an overflow from much that I carry in my heart about many things....

Why God and his Church get a "bad rep"

Our faults often obstruct the light within us from shining out.... That is why we Christians, being so imperfect and sinful, give such a "bad reputation" to God and to his Church.... Everyone who is disgusted with such things as sexual abuse by clergy are correct to feel repugnance. It is shocking because they are given trust for their public service, but it is also shocking when parents or other relatives abuse children and youth in their family, and for this reason it is almost impossible to talk about it and the victims are often not believed when they try to complain.

Disgust at the abuse of innocent children and youth by distorted adults

I myself am disgusted by the terrible things done by adults - and most especially by clergy - to children and youth. I feel the pain and have great sympathy for all those who have in any way been abused. The vast majority of sexual and psychological abuse apparently happens within families. When abusers are people who are supposed to be trusted with the care of others, it is even more terrible. Still, it is a sad mistake to treat with equal contempt the 99 others who are pure and devoted because of the 1 twisted and depraved one, just as it would be a sad mistake for a victim to decide never to marry or have a family because of what happened to them.

What is God doing about it?

God is constantly at work invisibly deep within each human being, but is also visibly at work through the life-giving instruments that are all the good human beings who exercise right authority in the forms of justice, health, social services, and loving care. Our Creator pours into human beings all good gifts as the Source form whom all our being and life flows. We are indeed the eyes and ears, the mind and heart, the mouth, feet, and hands of God in this world as we carry out all those good actions and works of mercy that God would want to do in person.

Just as parents rightly take pleasure in allowing their children to try to do things, to make mistakes, and in this way to learn to do things and become competent and graceful in living a good life and caring for others and the world around them; so too God takes pleasure in us developing our life and caring for others and the world around us, acting as agents of truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion in life.

The big picture - the full extent of God's love means mercy

God our Creator is always at work to give life and healing, especially to those most in need of his tender care. Of course, God takes pleasure as we have just seen in enhancing our own efforts to care for others in need. God is counting on all of us to notice the suffering of victims of abuse and to come to their aid as quickly and as effectively as possible. Victims of abuse need and deserve immediate attention and care; while the abusers need and deserve immediate attention and to be brought to justice. Only by being brought to justice can abusers possibly begin to realize the harm that they have done. Only once they admit the wrong they have done can abusers begin to experience reform and restoration.

As unbelievable and perhaps repugnant as it seems, while He is tenderly caring for all who are victims of abuse and all others of his children who suffer in any way; God even wants to forgive, repair, restore, and heal the abuser. Why? Because in most - if not in all - instances, the abuser was himself or herself abused and was damaged. The likeness of humanity was distorted in them when they became a victim, and they in effect became the harm that was done to them.... God sees the big picture and wants to restore everyone to the fullness of life He has always wanted to give to each and every human being. This means that when a human being is abused, the abuser and the victim are in effect mirror images of the same evil and harm, and God wants to restore them both in a perfect symmetry of healing grace and restoration.

When humans forgive, it is a divine act which sets free

It appears as though the only effective way to freedom and fullness of life for someone who has been abused is to forgive and let it go, not to forget because we cannot forget, but to forgive and let the abuser go. This is not humanly possible, which is why we need that life-giving presence of the living God within us to assure us that we are loved and lovable. God forgives us our faults, and once we finally accept to be loved by God, while also admitting to ourselves our faults and confessing to God our sins; then his perfect forgiveness and love makes us capable of choosing to love others with the same forgiveness and mercy. When we human beings truly forgive another, we are performing what is essentially a divine act.

Why do we need to confess our faults, our sins?

Why do we need to confess our sins to God? Logically, it is because God is our origin and destiny... our life is moment by moment being "poured" into us with every breath and heartbeat by the living God / Creator, who loves us with such a perfect love and respect that it is only right that we make good use of the gift we receive and love God back by loving not only our Creator but also everyone and everything else with the same love with which He loves us.

When we don't admit to ourselves our faults, we are only fooling ourselves and from that point on enclose ourselves within an illusion, and we continue to live our life as a fiction rather than as reality in the real world. When we don't confess our faults and sins to God our Creator, it is an offense against such a great Giver of the gift of who we are and all that we are.

The act of forgiveness can also be a mirror image but of good

Not only does God deserve our confession, but He wants to take the opportunity of our offense to love us even more by restoring our innocence and ability to love perfectly by granting us complete forgiveness and mercy. It is only right and good then that we extend his forgiveness and mercy to those who have offended us.... Once we let our offenders go, we are set free ourselves simultaneously.... In genuine forgiveness and mercy, both the offender and the offended are set free. The offender who is now forgiven remains free to welcome and accept this gift or to persist on his evil and self-destructive path. No one can be forced to accept forgiveness. As it can only be freely given; so too forgiveness can only be freely accepted. When forgiveness is accepted, even the offender is set free.

This means that when a human being truly and genuinely forgives another for their offense, and the offender freely accepts to be forgiven, in that moment the offender and the offended are in effect mirror images of the truth, goodness, beauty, and love / communion that is brought into existence in the act of forgiveness and mercy.

Peace to you, dear reader, to you and your family and all those you love or who count on you in any way.


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

+ + + + + + + + + + + +