Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent - Keep Re-adjusting Your Perception of the Real

1) We assume what we see with our senses and hold in our hand is real. We take a stand on who we are and what is real by what we see and judge by sight and touch.

- The problem with this is that reality is not necessarily the way we perceive it. We see things the way we are, not the way things are in themselves. Add to that, because of sin, “Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened” (Veritatis Splendor #1).

- Karol Wojtyla added to that this phenomenological adjustment: “Man’s experience of anything outside of himself is always associated with the experience foe himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself.”

2) Since God cannot be seen and held by our senses, when confronting Christ, the temptation of the Demon takes the form: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Mt. 4, 3). Benedict writes: “Mockery and temptation blend into each other here: Christ is being challenged to establish his credibility by offering evidence for his claims. This demand for proof is a constantly recurring theme in the story of Jesus’ life: again and again he is reproached for having failed to prove himself sufficiently, for having hitherto failed to work that great miracle that will remove all ambiguity and very contradiction, so as to make it indisputably clear for everyone who and what he is or I not.”

The Taunt: “If you exist, God,” we say, “then you’lll just have to show yourself. You’ll have to part the clouds that conceal you and give us the clarity that we deserve. If you, Christ, are really the Son of God, and not just another one of the enlightened individuals who keep appearing in the course of history, then you’ll just have to prove it more clearly than you are doing now. And if the Church is really supposed to be yours, you’ll have to make that much more obvious than it is at present.”

3) Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: Give us visual confirmation that the perceived world as we understand and live it is fragile. They help us re-adjust the meaning of sensation: Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Mt. 24, 35).
Everything has been created by the Word. And the Word has become flesh. This demands a continuous conversion of perception on our part.
Therefore, Razinger’s “Introduction to Christianity” (Ignatius 1990) 25):

“Belief signifies the decision that at the very core of human existence there is a point which cannot be nourished and supported on the visible and tangible, which encounters and comes into contact with what cannot be seen and finds that it is a necessity for its own existence.
“Such an attitude is certainly to be attained only by what the language of the Bible calls ‘reversal,’ ‘conversion.’ Man’s natural centre of gravity draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center of gravity. He must turn round to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees with his eyes. Without this change of direction, without tis resistance to the natural center of gravity, there can be no belief. Indeed belief is the con-version in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable it is an about-turn; only he who tours about is receptive to it; and because our center of gravity does not cease to incline us in another direction it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a life-long conversion can we become aware of what is means to say ‘I believe.’”

Hence, faith is converting from sight to hearing. By hearing we are put in contact with the realism of the Person of Christ.

4) Lent is living Baptism as sacrament of faith – i.e. conversion to the Person of Christ as having taken our sins as His own. This is the Baptism of Christ – the beginning of assuming our sins as His own and destroying them in His love, to death on the Cross. That is why Christ calls His Passion and death “Baptism.”

5) Therefore, Lent is the ongoing re-adjustment of our perceptions of what is real and consequently lowering ourselves to abandonment to Christ. This is realism.

6) Don’t Judge: To be a realist, lower self not to judge the others who have indeed done evil, and indeed, done evil to ourselves. The reality is that they have been loved and forgiven by Christ. He has taken their injustice as His own. This is the meaning of His Baptism (the Cross). He assumes their sin as His own and pays for it in His own Blood and death. He does not enter into the presence of His Father with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own Blood (that is ours). It was infected with our sin and pride and He has taken it as His own and turned it into obedience and divinization. Therefore, we must not judge others as guilty of injustice when they have been loved, forgiven and healed by Christ in His own Blood.

When the Demon accuses us before Christ of having been sinful, prideful and unjust, His response is: “I’ll take care of that myself. What else?”

Consider what the perfection that is asked of us consists in: To have our sun shine on the good and the bad and our rain to fall on the just and the unjust. That is, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5, 44). We are asked to do the humanly impossible - but now possible: “Love your enemy.”

[1] K. Wojtyla, “The Acting Person,” Reidel (1979) 3.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Jesus of Nazareth” (1), Doubleday (2007) 30.
[3] Ibid 30-31.

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