Sunday, March 3, 2013

Security in acknowledging my insecurity

On Sundays I often like to offer a reflection on the readings for Mass. This week it's a little tricky because many parishes will use the readings for Year A because of the Scrutinies they celebrate for the Elect (i.e., those who will be baptized at the Paschal Vigil this year), even though we are in Year C of the lectionary cycle. Since my parish is using the Year C readings, I want to offer a reflection on the second reading, taken from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, in which he reflects on the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It should seem a little odd the he is doing so in a letter to a Church largely made up of Gentile Christians. Unpacking that would require more work than I want to attempt today.
These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall (1 Cor. 10:10-12)
I have to say that this is one of those verses that makes me wonder how anybody can subscribe to "once saved, always saved."

How do we stand secure, or more secure, as opposed to thinking ourselves standing more securely than we actually are? Oh sure, we stand secure on Christ, our Rock, our Savior, etc. But how does this look in the reality we experience each day? At least part of the answer must lie in what Giussani called the recovery, or rediscovery of our I. This was grasped by the Protestant reformer John Calvin: "Well nigh the sum of sacred doctrine consists in these two parts, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves." I don't think this means having a deep, detailed understanding of ourselves, our motives, our emotions, etc. As I understand it, it means grasping my transcendence by way of my desire, my longings, my frequent dissatisfaction, and my recognition of life's weirdness, even its absurdity, which is not obliterated by Christian faith- in some ways faith brings it into clearer relief as it unfolds before my eyes.

Once in awhile, but probably more often than we realize, reality offers us a chance to recover ourselves through circumstances. If something cannot be realized, that is, made real through experience, then it remains an abstraction. I would submit that faith that remains an abstraction is not real faith. For example, betting on God's existence via Paschal's wager is not faith. While esti Deus daretur (i.e., living as though God exists) gives coherence to human life and yields better results than the alternative (i.e., etsi Deus non daretur), it falls short of faith. Yet faith is not absolute certainty, or it would not be faith.

Who didn't find Luna Lovegood one of J.K. Rowling's most endearing characters?

Just today I read a brilliant piece by my friend Max Lindenman- My Real Career: Fool in Christ. In which he wrote:
It now occurs to me that this sense of myself as an iredeemable [sic], largely indigestible kook is what’s really keeping me Catholic. Catholic culture is varied and intricate, and my experience of it is still too limited to admit of any bold pronouncements. Still, it should be obvious that the Church attracts people who are willing to devote their spare time, perhaps their careers, to pursuits that will never get them rich or laid. Normal this ain’t
Lest you think this is an exercise if self-pity instead of engagement with reality, consider how he ended his post-
Anyway, one thing the Church definitely does offer us flakes is material with which to construct a rich inner life — about as good a substitute for upward mobility as any. Arriving at the office for my interview, I was greeted by one of the veteran writers, a pale blonde wearing Spanx either despite or because of the advanced state of her pregnancy. Straight off, in my head, I painted her in red, flanked by Magi. As associations go, I’d rank that a notch above “Hey, it’s Gwynneth Paltrow!”
"Doesn't sound very secure," you might say. Well, reality isn't well served by pretending to a certainly we don't- and possibly can't- obtain. Such pretension makes betting on Paschal's wager the better bet. I'll take the real illuminated by faith, if only by a narrow flashlight beam, any day. As the apostle wrote a few chapters later in this same missive: "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known" (1 Cor. 13:12).

As the title of this post indicates, paradox is an inescapable part of the Christian life, which is why it is an adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post. I will research this Mr. Lindemann.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...