Saturday, July 28, 2012

Loving Christ in the Other

(I know this is a bit long, but I felt compelled to share it. How de we truly see each other? Do we love what we see? This passage is from Michael E. Gaitley's Consoling the Heart of Jesus. I highly recommend reading it along with the passage I've posted below.)

"The merciful outlook is a way of giving drink to the thirsty. It gives a cup of love to another and to ourselves as we make our pilgrimage through this desert of life to the Ocean of Love, the Holy Trinity. I said it provides a cup. The merciful outlook is not a gushing bucket of smother love. It's a cup. It's a simple thing but beautiful to a thirsty heart. It's a subtle way of seeing others - not an intense staring - that communicates to them a simple and sincere message, "I delight that you exist." this modest expression of real delight in the very existence of the other will often be for them a refreshing cup of love, a cup that helps to quench their thirst and point them along the way to the Eternal Fountain of delight-filled Love that alone truly satisfies.

Now, some people may be getting troubled at this point. They may be honing in on how the merciful outlook is a way of seeing others with delight, which may cause them to think, "Wait a minute, delight is a feeling." (People often get nervous about feelings.) In fact, they may be saying to themselves: "He's not suggesting we're always supposed to be feeling delight in others, is he? After all, what matters is not what we feel anyway, right? What truly matters is simply that we choose to love, that we will it." In response to such thoughts, I'd say, "Yes, it's true that sometimes love must be expressed without feeling. Sometimes it's simply a dry but firm decision of the will." (Thus we've all probably heard the expression, "Love is a choice.") However, I'd also say that love simply as a choice is not the ideal. Ideally, love ought to be felt.

Think about it. Unless we ourselves feel love for the other, will our love still carry the warmth that touches hearts?...People are good at distinguishing felt love from forced love. The merciful outlook just doesn't work without true feeling - and it can't be faked. Phony smiles that say "You're just so special!" (gag) do not work. Thus, an important question arises, "How do we feel delight in others?" This question brings us to the essence of the merciful outlook.

Felt delight in others, expressed in the merciful outlook, stems from grasping the truth and beauty of who the other authentically is. And who is the other? The other is Christ. Yet I don't mean te other is Christ in an over-spiritualized kind of way. (There's no ghost-like Christ hiding behind the other's ear.) No, the other is Christ. Christ is not hiding. The other is Christ insofar as he's a member of Christ's Mystical Body (or, if he's not a Christian, he's a prospective member of Christ by virtue of his being made in the image of God and calle dto full membership in Christ's Body). Of course, the other is not the same as Christ the Head of the Body. Still, to be a member of Christ's Body is to truly be Christ. Regarding htis point, it's helpful to reflect once again on Chirst's startling words to Saul (later St. Paul), who had been persecuting Christians, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4). The Lord didn't say, "Hey, Saul, why are you persecuting my followers?" Rather, he said, "Why are you persecuting me?" 

So the member of Christ's Body is Christ. The word "is" here is important. The merciful outlook I'm proposing takes it seriously. For this outlook aims to discover the other person as a unique member of the Body of Christ. As a member (or potential member) of Christ's Body, the other person shows forth an utterly unique facet of the mystery of Christ. I'll now say more about this, for this is precisely that in which we should feel our delight when we delight in another person. It's also what helps turn the over-spiiritualized outlook into the merciful outlook.

A Christian ought to delight in Christ. He ought to have drunk deeply of the beauty, goodness, and glory of Christ Jesus. He ought always to be eager to have more of Christ, that is, to know him more fully so as to love him more deeply. Well, the members of the Body of Christ help us to know and love Christ more. I say that because each and every human being is created in the image of God and given a vocation to manifest by his redeemed existence a facet of the beauty of Christ in a way that no other human being in the cosmos is capable of doing. What an amazing vocation each person has! No wonder Christ longs for us to become saints, for a saint is someone who most perfectly fulfills this vocation. A saint manifests the unique face of Christ he or she is called to be. Thus, a saint helps reveal Christ to us, and Christ is so beautiful in his saints...

We really can have the merciful outlook. The saints have it, and we're called to be saints. We're called to see as they see. And how do they see? They see as God sees. And how does God see? He sees the beauty of what he created (see Gen 1:31). In an unrepentant sinner, he still sees a vocation to greatness even if it's tragically entombed in a hardened heart. Amazingly, when such a sinner recognizes that God sees this greatness in him, he begins to come alive. Such is the gaze of God. Such is the power of mercy. Such is the meaning and power of the merciful outlook. It draws out the good and brings back to life. It's a God-like gazing on others that draws out their good and brings them into the new and more abundant life.

Sometimes this God-like gaze is terrible. It's terrible not in the sense of "that movie was terrible" but in the weighty sense of that "terrible day" when Christ comes again on the clouds of heaven with trumpet blasts (See Mt 24:30-31). For the merciful outlook does indeed bring with it a kind of reckoning. It's not yet the "terrible day of reckoning" - thank God - but it's like it. For the person who receives the merciful outlook from another sees reflected in the eyes of the other the words, "You are great." However, these words are also a call to greatness. For, while the greatness is truly there - the other person sees it! - it's not fully there.

The person who receives the merciful outlook knows that the greatness he sees reflected back at him in the eye of the other is tragically not all there in him, because he can also feel the gaze of his own "inner eye," his conscience. This inner eye makes him tragically aware of not being who he's meant to be, which is terrible. Yet it's not despairingly terrible. For there's still the gaze of the other, at least in memory, constantly echoing the words, "You are great." So the person feels himself in the midst of the terrible drama of having to choose either to be the person he presently is or the person he's called to become, either the person of mediocrity or the awe-inspiring person he was destined to be from before the foundation of the world (Se Mt 25:34; Eph 1:4) ...

The merciful outlook...makes a strategic choice to go for what St. Ignatius would call "the greater good." It chooses mercy over justice and trusts in the power of mercy to bring an even greater good out of evil....the merciful outlook ideal is definitely high: to delight in each person we meet. That's not easy. It's not easy to delight in the people we see every day. It's not easy to find treasure in people day in and day out, especially when there's a lot going on. It's not easy, and we often don't do it. Of course we'll fail - but we'll also succeed, and the successes are worth the pain of failure. So yes, to the extent that our duties allow us, we should try to reach our ideal. It's not possible to live perfectly, but it is possible to live. Why? Because people really do have an amazing beauty that comes from being the unique members of the Body of Christ they are (or are called to be). Even if we see them every day for the rest of our lives, there's no exhausting their richness. 

But how do we know this? How do we know all that beauty is really there? After all, most of the time it might seem like it's not there. People are people - and, frankly, we do seem to be a motley crew. Moreover, the day-in, day-out people, especially those we live with and love, quickly seem to lose their mystery. One test shows that each person is an inexhaustible beauty: death. Someone we know and love suddenly dies. Just as suddenly, they're not so mundane. Suddenly, we easily see past their annoying aspects and remember the irreplaceable gift that they were - and in fact, as we remember them, we often find we love those aspects that annoyed us and wish we could experience them again...there was a treasure in the beloved that no one can replace...and we rightfully mourn the fact that this side of heaven, we'll never encounter it again. We rightfully weep because there's a hole in the cosmos, a reflection of Christ's face that, here, we behold no more.

So wonder and delight at the beauty of another is something real - we surely feel it's absence after someone we love has just died. It's not something too "romantic," though we may indeed be setting ourselves up for disappointment if we expect to feel it all the time. Still, we can try. We can ask for the grace. We can continue to draw close to Christ, especially to the suffering of his Heart, and hope that he'll make our hearts more like his.

The Heart of Christ. yes, that's the goal. As members of his body, we share his Heart. We can love with his Heart, the Heart that always sees the treasure (and the suffering) of each person, the Heart that always sees his image in another, the pierced Heart that knows at what terrible price the other has been made so beautiful."

No comments:

Post a Comment