Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
From the soil of the earth, we find the roots of who we are in our family trees. Yet, is it possible for us to see ourselves as we truly are? Jesus calls on us to know ourselves, to remove that which blinds us; the beam that is in our own eyes, before we are able to heal, teach and lead. This vulnerability of seeing and being seen as the Master, Jesus the Christ also was seen, “the wounded healer”.
It is said that there are three versions of each of us: who we see ourselves to be, who others see us as, and the person we truly are. We often think of ourselves as finished products, the “I” that I am this moment. The mystic hermit, Thomas Merton saw beyond this view, “our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny.” To know this truth we are to “pray for our own discovery.”
God who utters me like a partial thought of Godself is the seed of God planted in my life, but the inner soil of my heart must be fertile and free of hardened rocks if this seed is to grow into the fullness of my life.
The False Self
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about them. My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love — outside of reality and outside of life. And such a life cannot help but be an illusion. The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in God.
Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find God, I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find God (New Seeds of Contemplation).
Lack of Self Knowledge Makes for Faulty Knowledge
The search for our true identity requires an honest, vulnerable self-love. Love of self is not selfishness but a humble recognition of our lives as true, good and beautiful. To see as God sees. Without real love of self, all other loves are distorted. Lack of self-knowledge as St. Bonaventure once wrote, makes for faulty knowledge in all other matters.
All of us carry within us deep hurts, anger, resentment, lost loves, broken relationships, desperately seeking to fill our lives with happiness and peace. As he himself was searching for truth and identity, he came to a deep insight, that each human person already has what they are looking for: “Within myself is a metaphorical apex of existence at which I am held in being by my Creator.”
Merton thought that to live the truth of our own existence is to be a saint. “A tree is holy,” he wrote, “simply by being a tree;” flowers are saints gazing up into the face of God. This mirrors the understanding of St Francis that we already carry the Love that we seek within ourselves.
But there is also the possibility to live outside the truth of my own existence, to live my illusions. Deceiving ourselves and thus the tree can no longer produce the fruits of our true holiness and so the fruit of the tree becomes diseased.
No Awakening Without God
When Jesus saw the holy Nathaniel under the fig tree, Jesus saw that there was no duplicity within Nathaniel; Nathaniel knew who he was in truth and in this reflection could recognise Jesus the Christ as the son of God and the King of Israel.
This is Jesus the Christ calling on us to let go of those illusions and to grasp the holiness of their lives. Merton said, “We cannot go to heaven because we do not know where heaven is or what it is,” so God comes to us. God comes down from heaven and finds us, just as God sought Adam in the Garden of Eden. There is nothing we can do or say that can alienate God from our lives. We can disown God, but God cannot disown us because God cannot disown God’s own self; the self that is the very source of our lives. (2 Timothy 2:13) This echoes the discovery of St Francis: Love comes to those who have a Love already. You find what you bring with you in your heart. God has loved us and that gift is ours before we ever set out to find it.
Merton understood this inscrutable mystery by saying “our discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us.” Our praying to God is God praying in us. Our lives and God’s life are so intertwined that loving God is God loving God’s own self in us. Prayer is waking up to this reality, coming to a new consciousness of God’s in-dwelling presence. “We become contemplatives,” Merton wrote, “when God discovers Godself in us.” So God does not desire that we become anything other than the true self which God has loved from all eternity.
Our life’s journey is knowing the truth of ourselves in God. As soon as we come to see this all wars will cease, violence will be banished, the world would be a sacred sphere, broken bones would be healed and hearts mended. If we could discover this great mystery of God in us, we would be truly free, and out of this freedom the seeds of our lives would sprout into a new world of justice and peace.