Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thoughts After Beginning Day

I spent part of this weekend participating in "Opening Day" with the Washington DC Communion and Liberation community. I didn't go with any particular set of expectations, only with a general sense that it wouldn't be a waste of my time.

I've had several months of many emotional experiences with texts of Fr. Giussani, and with and in the actual physical act of meeting with the local group (called "School of Community"). This experience in DC was relatively dispassionate, but also a moment of things feeling crystal clear.

First crystal clear thing: CL is all about the core of Christianity, namely personally encountering Christ, responding to Him, and the incredible power that unleashes.

Second crystal clear thing: CL also emphasizes a positive embrace of our creation, and re-creation, as human beings. This is an aspect of truth into which I feel a deep need to soak myself, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, physically.

Another crystal clear thing needs some context: The priest who gave the talks (Msgr. Albacete) told the story of his discussion with a catechist who had lost faith in the Resurrection of Christ. Albacete said as he talked to the man about the Resurrection, the man suddenly exclaimed that he could see that if Jesus Christ had risen from death, everything would be changed. Nothing that we experience in life right now would be able to be seen in the same way if the Resurrection were true. "But," the man said, "where is the evidence?" This, Albacete said, was the real beginning of the conversation. "What evidence will you accept?" Albacete asked him.

Now, this line of thinking about evidence for (or "verifying" to use a CL term) the Resurrection is not one I had followed, but I could relate to, for example, looking to verify that the Catholic Church is the church established by Christ. But I considered this even more basic challenge -- what evidence I would accept to something as foundational as the Resurrection of Christ (upon which really follows the divinity of Christ, the basic claims of the Christian faith). I realized the evidence for me has been to find love manifested towards me by human beings, in a way that touched my rawest needs, when they could have freely chosen not to manifest that love. The evidence for me has been to have a Good Samaritan come and pick me up off the Jericho road, in my bleeding and dying state, and to "pour in the oil and the wine", to quote an old song. In other words, if Jesus is still alive, He shows up through His people.

This has happened to me many times throughout my life, but meeting the School of Community has been this for me lately. And I guess the oddest part of it was that I wasn't even feeling aware of any raw need when I started feeling my need met, by the words of Fr. Giussani, by being listened to by others in the group, by others sharing their hearts with me, by a sense of welcome that melted something in me.

Ok, it melted something in me to a degree. The other crystal clear thing I come away with is a call. All my life I have felt a call to enliven the faith of those who go to church and may even be rather religious, but who don't experience God personally, or who don't live like they do. It is very clear that the way to share Christ (with anyone, really) is to love. So, my call is to give love.

And this brings me back to look at my woeful inadequacy. Most of the time, I do not feel like a loving person. I am not effusive, I do not get emotional in certain ways, I don't get feelings or spontaneous thoughts of generosity. In fact, I usually feel rather clueless in the face of the needs of others. I feel, shall we say, masculine in my sense of loving others.

I know this doesn't mean I am unloving. But I need to go back to that soaking in God's embrace of my humanity, for healing, and more clarity about how precisely I am built to image God. {Sigh} I need so much remediation in what it means to be a human being.

Thirteen years ago I remember telling Fr. John, my former spiritual director, that in my conversion process I felt I had been taken, blessed, and broken, and now I was to be given, I just had to figure that part out, but I absolutely could not stop at this point. Is that what living this life is all about?

The danger, of course, is to go to navel gazing at this point. God is not calling me to fret over my imperfections or sit around trying to purify myself by some kind of self-work where I go off on a mountain somewhere alone and try to git r' done. The call is to love. So I guess the call is to muddle through, experiment if you will, set out a plan of action and start working it. I know in the mean time, insight, clarity, healing, growth, knowledge will come.

But it can feel so threatening to set out on a mission without a staff or bag or bread or money, or two tunics (Luke 9). Isn't it funny that that is exactly what Jesus wants?

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