Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers,
BOO! ha, it's Halloween, it's Friday, and it's unseasonably warm outside. What more could you ask for?
This morning as I was going to retrieve laundry from the dryer, I unconsciously brought my cup of coffee from breakfast. I have this coffee cup that says "Loyola University Chicago" (it looks really classy, especially for a 20 year old guy to be carrying around). Anyways, as I get to the laundry room and gather all the fresh, clean laundry into my laundry basket, I realize that the walk back through a hallway and upstairs carrying a coffee cup and a giant laundry basket is going to be more difficult than I imagined. I guess I never even imagined having to partake in such a balancing act.
Thankfully, with the concentration of an acrobat in a Ringling Brothers Circus show, I managed to make the journey without spilling coffee on my just-washed clothes. That's not to say there wasn't one really, really close call! For a split second, as the coffee cup tilted in my left hand, I pictured my clothes all turning an intense shade of coffee-black. But the balancing act worked, and my clothes remained in the original color. AMEN!
My reflection today has to do with a reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians. It comes from the beginning chapter of that letter. In particular, I want to focus on a line that really caught my eye as I was reading it this morning.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value." (Phil 1: 9, 10)
Paul writes to the Philippians while he is in exile at a prison and facing the possibility of being executed. Despite the fact that he faces these adverse, hostile circumstances (to say the least), Paul continues to pray for the Christian community in Philippi. It is the place where he helped establish the first community of its kind in all of Europe and he seems to keep a special place in his heart for these people.
I could probably write about how much of a statement Paul is making when he decides to turn away from his own personal struggle to pray for the people living outside of the prison walls he is trapped in. That seems like an unconditional act of love, an act that brings greater glory, greater good to society. But rather than focus on the personal life of Paul during the time of this letter's distribution, I would prefer to talk briefly about three ways he hopes love will increase among the people he is praying for; in knowledge, in perception, and in discernment.
I'd like to think of these three values (I can't think of a really unique or proper term to accurately categorize knowledge, perception, and discernment), as working in union but also having a bit of a structure or–––dare I use this word–––"hierarchy" system when working together. I say they work together because, for instance, when we gain knowledge we are perceiving something. Moreover, when we perceive something, we inevitably will turn what we perceive into some kind of form of discernment–––whether it be perceiving what options are on a menu at a restaurant and then discerning, from all the options, which meal will satisfy our hunger.
But in trying to unfold how these three values which seem to bring us closer to love–––closer to God–––we can see some kind of structure forming. That is, in some cases, one of the terms must come before the other so that we may more clearly enter another stage that will bring us closer to love. Let me try to make sense of this. I would say that, in a very general way, we might make this order of the three values: 1. Perception 2. Knowledge 3. Discernment. In establishing this order, I mean to say that we first perceive things–––we observe what we say in nature or in our day to day, we realize we are attracted to another person or a group of people, etc. Second, we grow in knowledge about what we have observed or perceived. For instance, we date a person to better learn about that particular person. We go to school to learn and see if we want to continue on the path of what we are going to school for. This is where the third value, discernment comes into play. Our perceptions and the knowledge we obtain from what we perceive seem to bring us to a state of discernment. Knowledge can only take us so far; we have to discern what it is we want to do with that knowledge.
Paul's prayer for the community at Philippi is that they all use what they find out within these three values to establish further connections with each other and with God. He desires that his Christian sisters and brothers in Philippi come to realize that it is through love and only through love that they will understand why they are perceiving what they perceive and how the knowledge they come to can best be spread throughout their society. It is through discernment that they can go about making such choices that will bring them closer to the love they seek–––to the love Paul seeks for each and every one of them.
It's kind of neat to think that Paul, in some way, wishes the same for each and every one of us. I think anyone that really seeks what is best for his or her sisters and brothers will want each and every one of them to grow more in love with the people and places around them.
That would be my prayer for each and every one of you who have taken the time to read this Network of Love. May you love and be loved more fully. I ask you to pray in the same way for me; that perception, knowledge and discernment will lead you and me to do things for people that will allow all of us to love and be loved.
your friend bob.