Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"to open you up to the hope of overcoming [your evil]"

God loves us. So what, you might respond. This response is not a rejection of the fact that constitutes the horizon of human existence, but arises instead from the difficulty we have seeing what difference it makes in our lives and from hearing this statement used in a sentimental way, which is to say this in a way that fails to relate directly to the reality we live in any given moment. As I was re-reading the last assembly on virginity in the third volume of Is It Possible?, I was struck not by how much God loves me, but by precisely how God loves me. This insight also arises from my continual engagement with the writings of St. Paul, especially his Letter to the Romans, which, if coupled with the Gospel According to John, would be enough for me read for the rest of my life.

It is a fact of my life that I sin, both in what I do and in what I fail to do. When I have the grace to recognize my sins, I am truly sorry for them. I go to confession on a fairly regular basis these days, which is a sure channel of grace for me precisely because I am coming to see the point in going much more clearly, something I can only learn through experience: So, what Don Giussani said is not what I want my experience to be. Instead, what he says is descriptive:

"But with Jesus, nothing's lost any more - even your own evil remains, transformed into gratitude. And even your own evil, were it to be repeated a hundred times, the result of the hundredth time is to open you up to the hundred and first time, to open you up to the hope of overcoming it..." (pg. 110).

Without this attitude towards the evil we do, which is what we don't want to do, but continue to do because we refuse to give up what we must give up, we defeat ourselves. For a long time I would go to confession, make my confession, and leave not unburdened, but burdened because (and I even remember consciously thinking this) now I had to be perfect. It was all up to me! Ha! What foolishness, pride, and self-deception! I do not go to confession in order to ask the Lord to put me back in charge, but to acknowledge, again, my desire to follow Him, which is to follow the One who will lead me to my destiny, the fulfillment of my desire.

Don Gius goes on to say that "the overcoming of our evil happens when God wants it" (pg. 110). He also says that my response cannot be "OK, so I'll do whatever I want; when God wants He'll change me" (ibid). So, what should my response be? According to Giussani, I "have to desire, to desire more," which means interrogating my heart in order to know what I really want, which is everything; nothing less than being fully satisfied (ibid).

In commenting on Leopardi's poem Canto alla sua donna (Song to his lady), Giussani says, "Up to that point, Leopardi had fallen in love first with one woman, then another, and yet another; but he understood that there was something else that he was seeking inside the face of every woman - namely Beauty itself, to which no woman's face did complete justice (What Kind Of Life Gives Birth To Communion and Liberation[?]: An Interview with Luigi Giusani, pg. 3). Chesterton summed this up a bit more concisely, when he averred that "Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God."

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