Friday, September 20, 2019

Love Overcomes the Vanity of All Things

I have been asking lots of questions within my soul in these recent years. So much has happened that it's bewildering, so much secret pain has been revealed - in others more than in myself.

Dear God ... ...

I know these are not the kinds of questions that can be adequately answered with words. They are the kind of questions that can only be endured. They are more than compatible with the unreserved assent of faith... but they are not comfortable.

Lately, I often feel the weight of the fragility, the temporary nature of every thing in this life. And this does not come with some kind of stoic resignation. There is a great sorrow in it.

Getting old means I see it in myself in so many ways. And I saw it especially over the past year, watching my once vigorous father slowly die.

We have had several tragic deaths in our community this year. There are larger problems in the world and in the Church that have shaken us up. Of course, there have been joyful moments, inspiring moments too.

It's taking its toll on me. I'm trying to hold on, but more and more I just feel like I'm gasping for air, like I'm nearly out of gas, I'm spent. Emotionally more than physically. There are things I can do for this, therapeutically speaking, up to a point.

What remains is the struggle to keep saying, "Yes" every day, and to say it with love. I'm not giving up. Sometimes, when I write, it helps me to remember who I am, why I exist, what moves me to say "yes" to today, to engage life in this world even if "all is vanity" - because "all is gift" too! Here's where "the questions" stand in front of the Mystery.

There remains a hope in me, not one that I can generate from any effort to be optimistic, not one that comes from me or from anything bound to this world that is passing away.

It has its source in that man who rose from death, who transforms death into the beginning of a new world, a new creation, whose love renews all things. That man: Jesus Christ.

For me it's a difficult, sometimes desperate hope, sometimes obscured by so many anxieties; yet still, I remember that I have been loved by this love that is greater than death. I have been loved by Jesus.

Here is something that ought to be an especially convincing and compelling feature of living in the communion of the Church.

In many places in the Church this witness to Christ's amazing love has been obscured, and this points to some basic problems that we must all grapple with regarding our relationship with God and with one another.

Overall, for me, however, I have been very much blessed by the witness of others. I have known people who, even with all their problems and their fragile humanity, have a joy, a passion, a love that reaches me and speaks to me of a new kind of life, a new world where all the goodness and beauty of things is transformed, renewed, and fulfilled.

It is the love greater than death, that shares itself and begins to change everything, even our sorrows, even our mourning over the vanity of all things.

The Church living in history means that we have been loved, concretely, by other persons with this kind of love, the risen love of Jesus. Sometimes they let us down too, but really there is nothing surprising about that. Humans are flawed and weak. What strikes us is that, in the midst of an ordinary, peculiar, often frustrating human community, there is something else. It is this human, yet different, love that embraces us.

And the love remains, continues, endures our efforts to frustrate it, and even grows! The Church is a place where we can encounter the Source of this new, radically dynamic love and be changed by it. It shapes us even when we don't feel it and this perishing world seems to have swallowed it up.

Sometimes love may seem absent from our psychological experience of being "in the Church." Perhaps we are closing ourselves off, holding onto our pride or resentment. But perhaps it is because love has gone deeper, to work secretly in the hidden depths our ourselves.

If we feel like we can't "find" that love, we need to "ask" and "seek" and hope and endure the darkness with eyes and heart open.

For me, I know that I am loved by God. He has touched me in Jesus Christ, through his Spirit, in his grace, through baptism and the sacraments, and through the love of others.

I feel like I would be betraying myself if I denied such a fundamentally important factor of my life, no matter what may obscure it in a given situation, no matter what hidden paths it takes. I have seen enough to know that this mysterious love is present and always worthy of my trust. I can still say, "look, here is a sign, a light, a reason for hope."