Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2003
God doesn't always demand centre stage
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
We need an image of God and of Jesus that can show what God does.
God, like any parent, takes a huge risk in having children. To have children is to leave yourself painfully vulnerable. It's also to be called upon for an understanding, a patience and a self-dethroning that, literally, can empty you of self. That's as true of God as of any mother or father.
What are the qualities of this "self-emptying"?
To "self-empty" in the way Jesus is described as doing means being present without demanding that your presence be recognized and its importance acknowledged; it means giving without demanding that your generosity be reciprocated; it means being healthily solicitous rather than nagging or coercive; it means being vulnerable and helpless; it means living in a great patience that doesn't demand intervention, divine or human, when things don't unfold according to your will. Not an easy thing at all, that's why we've sung Jesus' praises for 2,000 years for doing it, but that's the invitation.
We need a theology of God and an image of Christ that can give us a horizon and some hope as we struggle to be missionaries in the toughest mission field of all today, our own culture with its own innate virtue and its own innate inattentiveness to God and Church. Downey's suggestion that we take as our horizon God's "self-emptying" in Jesus is, I believe, a very good one. Properly understood, that image can show us where and how to stand in faith inside a culture that likes to think it's outgrown faith.
At that same symposium, a social-worker from Quebec, Vivian Labrie, in her keynote address, made this statement: "I believe that God is mature enough that he doesn't demand to be always the centre of our conscious attention." While that statement needs some nuance, it is, in its own way, a commentary on the famous Christological hymn in Philippians (2:6-11) which describes Jesus' "self-emptying" in the incarnation.
When a mother or father sits down at table with the family, she or he doesn't need, want, nor expect, to be the centre of attention, a prerogative a healthy adult generally cedes to the kids. What he or she does need and want is that the family be happy, respect each other, respect the ethos and aesthetics that the family values, and that everyone is essentially on the right track in his or her life so that each family member knows what's ultimately sacred, moral and important, even if a given member doesn't, at this particular moment, recognize or credit the family for what he or she has been given to prepare him or her for life and happiness.
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