Friday, October 30, 2009

Part Two: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Today is Friday...thank God its Friday (but there is a whole lot of rain here in the Windy City...a heap of rain has reigned downed on us). Enjoy your weekend all and I look forward to talking with you soon!

Here is the conclusion of Compassionate God, a posting I started in my previous blog (if you haven't checked out this blog in a while, I suggest you read the previous posting before starting this posting).

I’d like to consider God being revealed through my dead mother. This woman who gave birth to me is by all accounts physically dead. What does she physically have left to give? What compassion exists in her if her life ceases to exist? Something happens when I return home from the hospital. I am still angry, frustrated, guilty and above all feeling a complete sense of loss for having missed the opportunity to say goodbye to my mother. Before going to bed alone (my wife has moved out), I happen to notice a card on my desk. It is not as if the card was not there before, but it just so happens to catch my attention tonight. The outside of the card is a picture of a dove carrying an olive branch–––the inside is a message from my mother. It is a Christmas card she had given me last year. Even though I am middle-aged with children of my own, she writes the same conclusion in all my cards: “you will always be my child–––my baby forever. Love, Mom.” It always seemed like a sappy ending until now–––at this moment that somewhat cliché “I love you” message mysteriously triggers a reconciliation that becomes multiple reconciliations that begin to refocus my life. The written words of my mother seem to say from far away that she is still near and that she loves me–––for who I am and for who I fail to be. This woman, who gave birth to me–––who is dead¬¬¬¬–––seems to live.
Through rereading my mother’s card at a most crucial time, I recognize God. For what other way might I describe why I looked at that card the night my mother passed away? Though my mother’s heart stopped beating, her heart lives on in her memory and in her words. Can this phenomenological experience sustain me (does it provide me with ample faith)? It does seem to point to an even deeper truth–––it reveals a God who is fully compassionate. I conclude that the night my eye happened upon the card was a phenomenological experience: a revelation from a God who works subtly and is elusive while nevertheless pursuing me. God did not want me to feel angry or guilty or sad because I could not say goodbye to my mother. God seems to say, “I recognize your pain and I feel it along with you.” The moment I read the card triggers reconciliation with the life of my mother that begins a transformation in me. I realize selfishness and my ego was holding me back from the relationships I most cherished. The seeds of change are planted through a revelation that neither shocks nor awes but deeply mystifies.
In conclusion, I have painted a portrait of God that is not a theological proof for the existence of God or justification through scripture or tradition. The God I reveal in my story does not appear in wind or fire, but rather in the silence of a most lonely night. The God revealed suffers with me as I mourn the loss of my mother and wipes the tears from my eyes while crying along with me. I need not wipe the tears from God’s eyes because God is fully giving to me–––the tears God cries reveal the full compassion of God. The revelations of God’s fulfilling love come in ways that I don’t always see through my fragmented, sometimes suffering existence. However, when I reach outside of myself, I can collect the images and experiences that will serve as a foundation for beginning to sketch a picture of God. But alas, the sketch will remain incomplete.
Scattered though it may remain, the revelation of a fully compassionate God is one that calls for a transformation of heart and mind. William Reiser, S.J., in my opinion, puts the matter quite well. He discusses the crucifix (the sustaining tree of life of the Christian tradition) as a haunting, yet sacred image. A crucifix “draws attention to a haunting solidarity with the suffering humanity of [Jesus’] time and place that Jesus had demonstrated both in his living and in his dying.” In considering the death of Jesus–––what his death means if we put stake in the words and actions of his life–––we come to see an image of an unselfish person who gives of himself for the sake of others. Does he give fully? That is a question of faith that I simply can’t tackle in the context of this paper. But I would say that if we believe that God really could enter into life fully as a human person and then die fully as a human person, we could conclude that that God is fully self-giving. If we accept the idea that God might indeed have chosen to be revealed through the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then who is to say that God would not enter into our own sufferings in a most intimate and compassionate manner? This revelation would be a self-giving sacrifice from the Creator that would redeem our personal sufferings. If one believes in the resurrection of Jesus, one sees the plan of a person carried out in fullness. From life to death to resurrection of body, the Christian tradition believes in a person that becomes someone who conquers death.
Consider once again the narrative I used as an allegory throughout this paper: my mother who died is fully alive and recreated in a redemptive act that remains to be seen by me but exists within the confines of a mysterious God who does not hide behind a transcendent, Kantian kind of wall (nor high in the sky like my five year old brain conceived of it), but who actually exists in our midst as an elusive, yet fully compassionate God.


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Thanks for reading my blog! Let me know if you have any questions or comments about what I posted; I'd be happy to share further.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )

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