Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 26, 2004
God remains hidden for our own good
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
"We have to be very careful not to seek ourselves; for we can get a broken heart."
- Therese of Lisieux
"The Spirit," as defined in Scripture, refers to everything that's the opposite of jealousy, selfishness, greed and deceit. As Paul defines it, "the spirit" is "charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering, fidelity, gentleness and chastity." These realities make God present and testify to the existence of God in a way few other things do. They're realities that take us outside of ourselves and cannot be programmed for our own advantage.
What is "the water"? Biblically it's an expression for sacrament, for the way God's ineffable presence can be given to us through certain concrete symbols; a water-bath, a sharing of bread and wine, an anointing with oil, a laying on of hands. It speaks of mystery, namely, that God is always beyond us, unimaginable in existence and presence, and yet so near that this presence is so overwhelming, simple and direct that it's best grasped and related to through certain concrete physical things which, because they function symbolically, conceal and respect God's existence and presence even as they reveal it.
Jesus did that during his time on earth. He was, and remains, the primary sacrament of God. But sacred symbols, of all kinds, also do that. They point beyond their own reality to something deeper, God's existence and mysterious presence.
And finally, there's "the blood". This refers to self-sacrifice, the giving away of one's life for others to the point of giving one's own blood, and the carrying of tension (to the point of sweating blood) rather than violating or disrespecting the deep contours of life. Jesus' giving of his own life for others, so aptly symbolized by his sweating and shedding his blood, is the prime example of this. True altruism powerfully testifies to the existence of God and makes that reality present. As well, like "the spirit" and "the water," altruism, "the blood," is something that takes us out of ourselves, away from ego, self-interest and manipulation. That's why God can be present within it.
Therese of Lisieux once said: "I think we have to be very careful not to seek ourselves; for we can get a broken heart that way." That's the perennial danger, both in love and religion. "The spirit," "the water," and "the blood" testify to a route beyond that danger.
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