Stick your head in water of Christ to find God’s Spirit all around you

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | March 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

I have watched the events in North Africa unfold over the past few months with a sense of awe and wonder. People who were, only months ago, resigned to live under authoritarian rule have suddenly found the courage to transcend their fear and found their voice to call for a better future.

One young Egyptian man sum­med it up when he said, “At first we had a choice about seeking reform. Now, our eyes have been opened and we can’t go back. This is our moment of truth. We can’t go back.”

During this Lenten season, we recount the biblical tales of people having their eyes opened in a moment of truth. This truth can hurt when it awakens us to a lie, like Adam and Eve or the Israelites in slavery and exile. They each have to face their vulnerability and nakedness before God.

Awakened to mercy

Moments of truth can happen when we face up to our limitations or admit that we are not in control. Our eyes can be opened to a false sense of security in the ability of possessions and technology to protect us, or we realize we are living beyond our means.

We only need to consider the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan despite its state-of-the-art protective measures. We become humbled in the presence of forces beyond our control.

And, yet, there is another side to this great awakening. Those who are humbled can have their eyes open­ed to God’s mercy.

For example, in Psalm 51, we repeat the refrain over and over again during Lent: “Have mercy on me, O God, for I have sinned.”

It is thought that this psalm comes from the lips of King David after his eyes were opened to how he abused his power to have an affair with Bathsheba. David is transform­ed by confessing his sin and seeking God’s mercy.

Also, it was during the time of exile that the Israelites experienced the tender mercies of God who comforted them, and they rediscovered their religion as the sacrifice of a contrite heart.

Our Catholic faith has come to call this paradox of being humbled as the doorway into experiencing God’s mercy as the “happy fault.”

This phrase comes from the Exultet which is sung during the Easter Vigil. We hear the words, “O happy fault; O necessary sin of Adam, that gained for us so great a redeemer.”

Our eyes are opened to the mercy of God present in death and life; in darkness and light; in slavery and in freedom; in sin and in forgiveness. We declare God’s final victory over sin and death and pray that our eyes may be opened to Christ our light. This is our Christian moment of truth and we can’t go back.

Opening our eyes

It reminds me of part of a story told by Cistercian monk, Father Thomas Keating, in which a little bear cub stumbles up to the mother bear and says, “Momma, what is this ‘air’ I hear so much about?”

The mother smiles back and says, “Oh, you silly little bear. The air is all around you and within you.” To which the little cub replied, “Momma, how can I know for sure?” And the mother responds: “Go, stick your head in the river for a while and maybe your eyes will be opened.”

In a similar way, once there was a brilliant scientist who spent a lot of time trying to understand the unknown. The scientist approached a spiritual master and asked, “What is this God I hear so much about?”

The sage responds, “Oh, you silly little human. God is all around you and within you.” And the scientist goes on, “How can you know for sure?” To which the spiritual teacher replies, “My child, all you need is to be still so you may come to know and see God.”

We are called into God’s mission to be witnesses of the mystery of faith — “the happy fault” — that awakens us to Christ and makes us “ready to give, to anyone who asks, the reason for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.

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Category: Commentary