Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 7, 2004
Discerning the real voice takes grace
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Truth has real boundaries and there's a danger in letting it mean everything.
So which is the real voice? Is one of these voices to be heeded and the other resisted?
This is a complex question and there's more to it than meets the eye. Historically, the temptation, at least in religious circles, has been to over-simplistically identify the voice of Jesus with the voice that calls us toward self-sacrifice and asceticism: "Everything is about self-renunciation!" Indeed, it is. Jesus did say that, as did every great saint.
But Jesus and those others also said more and our failure to take heed of the rest of what they said has sometimes made for a spirituality that is a half-truth with some nasty consequences, namely, in the name of religion, we have sometimes become unhealthily fearful, timid, and guilt-ridden.
Whenever this happens, the other voice, the one inviting us to enter more fully into life's dance of energy, is not blotted out but driven underground and there, because we have neglected part of what God has called us to, instead of becoming martyrs, we become people with "martyr complexes," frustrated persons whose energies become negative and manipulative in the name of love and service.
Moreover, in the name of this half truth, we often end up having God fighting God, truth fighting truth, wisdom fighting energy, and spiritual health fighting physical health, because we've put self-renunciation in false opposition to the challenge to also enter into the wonderful God-given energy of this planet where beauty, romance, creativity, physical health, wit, wine-drinking, and good humour also extend part of God's authentic invitation.
If both voices invite us to truth and yet they seem in opposition to each other, where do we go with this?
There is no simple truth, here or anywhere else. Truth is painfully complex (as are we) and truth is always bigger than our capacity to absorb and integrate it. To be open to truth is to be perpetually stretched and perpetually in tension, at least this side of eternity.
And that's true in terms of the seeming opposition between these voices. At times they are in real opposition and we can't have it both ways, but have to choose one to the detriment of the other. Truth has real boundaries and there's a danger in letting it mean everything. But there's an equal danger in letting it mean too little, of reducing a full truth to a half-truth - and nowhere, at least in the spiritual life, is this danger greater than in our tendency to let either of these voices completely blot out the other.
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