The pure glory of God in us

This week, when I was nursing some upset, so small I can’t remember what it was, I noticed a shift. Something within my deepest spirit moved me onto a different plateau, into a different perspective….

“All this doesn’t matter,” I prayed much to my surprise.

“Instead, may I honor YOU all the days of my life. My YOU be glorified and praised. That’s all I want in life.”

We are already starting a week that will bring us upset. Theodore McCarrick has been laicized. In a few days, a book will release that is the result of years of research into what is claimed to be the gay culture in the Vatican. The following day the meeting in the Vatican will begin with Pope Francis and the heads of the Bishops Conferences around the world on the subject of clergy sex abuse. Who knows if it will “produce” the immediate results that will satisfy all of us.

Today’s readings give us courage as Catholics and disciples of Jesus.

In the first reading, Jeremiah–at the time of the Babylonian exile–was pleading with the King and leaders of Israel to trust in the Lord and not make alliances with other countries.

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit. (Jer 17:5-8)

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus comes down to a level plain, signifying that he stands WITH us, and pronounces the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the people others hate as those who possess the kingdom of God.

Neither of these readings can be understood simplistically. We need to honor the pain, the betrayal, the bruises and batterings people carry from the weakness and sinfulness of others. It seems to me, however, that we need to honor these things with integrity and reverence, not soured with passion that protects its own righteousness.

For it is clear that Jesus, God-with-us, actually desires to stand with us, no matter who we are, in our pain and sorrow.

And blest are we if we trust him, for even in periods of drought, we will still bear fruit.

Thomas Merton recounted in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander–an experience in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, in which he was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that he loved all the people he saw swarming along the sidewalks. Even though they were total strangers to him, he knew deeply that “they were mine and I theirs.”

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.

Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere (From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton).

This is truth. God-standing-with-us is truth.

The pure glory of God written like a pure diamond in our hearts, in all hearts, is truth.

As we hear the news this week–and we think of all people: victims and perpetrators;  priests, bishops, pope, and laity; journalists and consumers of news in whatever format–may we see them in truth, holding them in the awareness of bruises and brokenness, yet ultimately with hearts on whom God’s name is written in their poverty, in their indigence, in their dependence, and in their sonship. And for those who in some way, clearly or possibly, have not reflected this “secret beauty of their hearts” let us have yet the courage to trust in the God who stands by us, by his Bride the Church, be each of us, by all of us together.

And maybe some of us will have the humble strength to stand ourselves with the others, standing in the radiance at the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. For as Merton says, “if only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….”

by Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

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