Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter
Scripture Readings: Acts 17:15, 22-18:1; Jn 16:12-15
Character is the determination of ourselves formed by having certain intentions and beliefs and not others. Christian character gives reasons for acting that are grounded in Christian convictions.
Character is formed by a community and the story that community lives out. The community disposes one to live out the story because we all have a need to affiliate and identify and we all do best when we’re watched. We benefit from good example and accountability. But the community doesn’t give power to live a particular way of life.
The story gives a frame of reference for the events of our lives. We can make some sense out of it all; it is a sense of the events having a goodness-of-fit or a misfit. From that we decide what to do or not do and the story provides some measure of guidance and motivation. But it doesn’t give the power either.
Here’s an example. In my last professional job before I entered the monastery we would all gather at Friday morning coffee break and talk about the story on the hit sitcom the night before. We were a very loose-knit community. We thought the values expressed in the show were “cool.” They weren’t much of a challenge, yet we couldn’t live them out. We didn’t have a script and rehearsal. “If it feels good, do it” didn’t work for us. There was no real power in it because power comes from the end we act toward. Each of us made up the story we actually lived as we went along. I think it’s called “relativism.”
Today, Jesus tells us that the Spirit of Truth will “take from what is mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit will not just give a good story that makes sense out of life-events. Nor will he just use the gospels and the Rule to give directions. He will give power.
And he’ll have to. The development of Christian character is a challenge. The challenge for the Christian, and for the monk in particular, is to live by a story that he didn’t write.
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter
Scripture Readings: Acts 17:15, 22-18: l; Jn. 16: 12-15.
Bear with me for a few minutes, brothers. Whoops. That sets off alarm bells. Something is coming that is going to stretch your patience, tolerance, and endurance. This is a plea for attention when the natural reaction would be to turn off and turn away. Please resist that first inclination.
I have much to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. This first line of our morning’s Gospel is a similar summons to pause and turn on a more sensitive presence than is normally adequate. Our normal comprehension might not grasp what is being said. But just because we don’t immediately grasp it, that doesn’t mean it is not true. The Ephesians at the Areopagus dismissed what Paul was trying to tell them. It was more than they could bear. That a man could be raised from the dead challenged their religion and philosophy. Too much information can overload systems and cause them to crash. It is too much for the system to bear. Neuroses are often scars from emotional impact on our psyches which they were unable to cope with. It was more than they could bear. Our systems cannot handle what is being offered to us.
While this word bear certainly means enduring suffering and carrying burdens, it also is the word we use to signify a woman carrying a child in her womb. We are called to bear the Word of God in us as a woman bears a child. It is the sending of the Spirit into our hearts that impregnates them with this Word. Before the manifestations of the Spirit in proclamation, wisdom, and works of healing, our inner “system” is transformed. It is enabled to bear the Word, to become a dwelling place where it is nourished and takes form. It is the beginning of a whole process of gestation, of interdependent communion, of hidden interrelation. I will take from what is mine and disclose it to you. This is a womb experience of union and mutuality without the sense of difference. Not one, not two.
While we become the womb of God’s Word and bear him in our lives, God is at the same time our womb. We are being borne in Him. We are His offspring. In Him we live and move and have our being. All that the Father has belongs to the Son. He takes from what is His and discloses it to us. The Word is conceived in us through the Holy Spirit. Not thanks to our piety, religion, or philosophy. As a mother bears a child in patience, suffering, and anticipation, we bear the Word – not knowing what form or face it will finally assume, but yielding to the life process of Christ being formed in our hearts. We can now listen and obey the much more that Christ has to tell us.