Fully Human, Fully Alive
What am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Tennyson, In Memoriam.
Each one of us comes into this world with a deep wound that cannot be healed by anything this world offers. The human vocation is not an easy one. By our very nature we are longing for something we have not got and what, of ourselves, we cannot attain. Within us is an indestructible urge to seek for happiness and we carry a deep-down conviction that we are made for happiness and that it is to be had. It is this desire that drives all humankind, and blessed are those who, hungering and thirsting for true happiness, know where alone it is to be found. We find it hard to realise that this open wound is our most precious treasure, an endowment our Creator will never take back from us.
We often moan, do we not? “Why must faith be so difficult? Why does God make it so hard for us? Why does he not show himself, do something that would reassure us, give us the security, the emotional, indisputable certainty we crave for?" The answer is that God cannot do so. God cannot deny his own self. God is love. Every attribute we ascribe to God is an aspect of love. We ourselves are creations of God’s love and our fulfilment is in love alone, in the absolute love that is God.
Jesus calls those who demand signs and wonders adulterous, and this, in biblical language, means idolatrous. God is love but we cannot expunge from the gospels or from the New Testament in general, expressions of divine anger. God’s “fury," God’s “burning wrath" are expressions of a suffering love that cannot bear seeing his beloved destroy themselves. His closest disciples must watch and pray lest they fall into temptation.
Listening to the parable of the great wedding banquet I was shocked anew. How polite, how perfectly respectable the response of those invited: “I pray you hold me excused," and so understandable! Yet terrible, terrible! The precious pearl of eternal life, the glory of being God’s cherished beloved, cast away as valueless. There are more important things to attend to. Are we surprised by God’s “groaning," his “rage"? In a way we cannot logically explain, divine “wrath" cannot be divorced from divine love, mocked, spat upon, scourged and crucified.
“What can bring us happiness?" many say (Psalm 4).
The great cry of the human heart has been answered. The Lord of all, Creator of the Universe, Fountainhead of all that we love, desire, ache for – has shown us his face in his incarnate Word, a face turned towards us in unspeakable love and tenderness. Do we look and look at this blessed face? I fear we do not.
The gospel stories are so familiar. We tend to use them to discover how we must act, how we must be towards our neighbour, and this is, of course, important but it is not enough.
When we take up our book of the gospels, it should be with the deepest reverence; we need to reflect, to ask for light, and to affirm that what we are about to read is divine revelation. Here the divine heart, the divine face of God is revealed to each one of us in accordance with our desire. We must give the words our closest attention and ponder them with a longing desire to understand, to really know our Lord.
We must take a lot of trouble. Even as we do our part, God does his. There is a sacramental element in Holy Scripture. The incarnate Word of God touches us at a level we cannot ordinarily perceive, communicates, not merely ideas of him, but himself. Prayerful pondering of the word of God cannot be sufficiently stressed. We come to know the truth of God and faith is strengthened. To rely on our subjective faith is to build our house on sand and, come the tempests, such a house collapses. A house built on the word of God is impregnable. If our faith is grounded on the divine word it will withstand every onslaught, and God knows how assaulted we are by the society in which we live!
We often moan, do we not? “Why must faith be so difficult? Why does God make it so hard for us? Why does he not show himself, do something that would reassure us, give us the security, the emotional, indisputable certainty we crave for?"
Maybe some of us see ourselves as not very important to God and are content just to be “a good Christian" – if only I touch the tassel of his robe, I shall be made whole (Matt 9: 21) – not expecting, and therefore not seeking, an intimacy of love. It is enough, we tell ourselves, to concentrate on our neighbour, for, after all, has Jesus not declared that whatever you do to one of these you do to me?
That is true, of course, but do you reflect that you, in your turn, are the precious “one" with whom Jesus identifies? Are you convinced that Jesus loves you in your absolute uniqueness? We are not a faceless crowd, as the sick woman in the gospel was to realise. Jesus turns and looks at her, eye meets eye. The Lord is not content that you are content with touching his robe, he wants to be face to face with you. He wants your embrace, your kiss of love. No one can give him the particular love and the special joy that you can give. He does not want you merely as a labourer in his vineyard, no matter how diligent a one, but a loving friend with whom he can share his deepest self, and who will labour side by side with him.
If we really know Jesus, who is our God, we cannot seriously cry: “Why does God make it so hard for us?" Look, for instance, at Matthew 4: 23-25 … “healing every disease and every infirmity among the people…and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics and he healed them…" Notice the “all, every," “throughout all Syria."
Is this a God who sends illnesses and afflictions to try us, to make things hard for us? How can we really look at him, the image of the Uncreated Creator and think he does? He has plunged defenceless into our human existence, knows it inside out from sheer experience. At the same time as he tastes the bitterness of human finitude, helplessness and pain, he is revealing to us the very nature of our God, the way God is.
Do you reflect that you are the precious “one" with whom Jesus identifies? Are you convinced that Jesus loves you in your absolute uniqueness?
God does not play games with us. God does not send hard things to try us, to test our faith. These things happen because we are human. Oh, we shall see one day the glory of being human. How blessed, how happy we are if, in the dark, in pain, confusion, bewilderment, with prayers and questions seemingly unanswered, we trust unswervingly in his love!
May God give us “that holy chivalry of the heart which flies to the defence of defenceless truth, the watchfulness of spirit which recognises truth even in the dark, the sharp ear of love and the intuitive strength of desire" (Romano Guardini, The Lord).