May 20, 2013
Our human desire is to project an aura of confidence, of success, of being in control. We want to know it all and to have others believe we know it all.
Yet, as we enter Ordinary Time in the liturgical year, we ought to know that such is not the human condition. We are not God and, truth be told, God is not a God like that. God is not the proud, absolute monarch. He is the God of compassion who knows our poverty and has lived it.
In writing about the nature of truth, theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar says there is no perfection in a person "stuffed with truths." If our quest for knowledge leads us to know everything, that would be a sad state of affairs.
For one thing, one would have missed "the joy of exchange and reciprocal sharing" with others. It is through that sharing that one abandons the myth of independence and lives the joy of communion. It is through exchange and sharing that one avoids boredom.
Moreover, the desire to be stuffed with truth is based on a falsehood. It is based on the belief that facts are facts, inert items that are just waiting to be discovered. We can acquire facts the way we acquire other possessions.
However, knowledge and truth are not like that. Each truth is connected with other truths. Each opens up into a realm of mystery. Each object and each truth is unique. When we marvel at one stone or tree, it is typically the uniqueness of that stone or tree that fascinates us, not the ways in which it is like all other stones or trees.
Yet, while we can apprehend each object's uniqueness, we can do so only partially. The full measure of that uniqueness exists only in the mind of God.
So, knowledge and goodness draw us, not toward a feeling of supremacy over creation, but to a yearning to kneel before an unfathomable mystery. They call us to experience, not our strength, but our poverty.
What does this have to do with Ordinary Time?
The liturgical year has its high moments, its epiphanies that reveal God with great fullness. The Incarnation, the paschal mystery, the coming of the Holy Spirit – these are the foundation of our faith.
Yet these great mysteries are like keys that unlock the mystery of the "ordinary." If God is the creator, redeemer and sanctifier then nothing is simply ordinary. Everything points toward an unfathomable mystery.
The end of the Easter season does not mean that we can now live like secularists for whom everything is appearance without depth. While humans are material beings with material needs who, for practical reasons, cannot gaze with astonishment at every rock or flower, we are also spirit. Our call is to daily ponder some gift of creation or ordinary life and to realize that it is primarily mystery. Rather than conquerors of the world, we must be receivers of mystery.
Glen William Argan
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