Is discussing the concept of "God" too difficult, or threatening? Tom McMahon suggests at the beginning of this commentary today that it might be. In some ways it might be argued that our theologies and understandings of the "divine" have been brain-washed into us over centuries. It's hard for all of us to let go of beliefs and concepts that we imbibed with our mother's milk, and our parents and grandparents in turn imbibed with their mother's milk. Discussion about such subjects can be unsettling to our psyche and sense of security. In this series Tom has endeavoured to explore some of the ancient foundations for the picture of God that have evolved down through the mists of time. Yet, The Mystery still remains.
Some lurking godly thoughts and the doors behind the door...
I have a sense that readership will drop off radically if we continue "hunting" down the divine unhuntable. As I pack away our magic carpet I have a bit of guilt, confessing that from the beginning of our mini-series search I knew my efforts would be futile, perhaps even annoying to those who have certainty. I have had copy of HUNTING THE DIVINE FOX by Robert Capon (1977) for 30 years, initially intrigued by "the hunt" and wondering back in 1980 how I was going to use these mystery thoughts of god for the good of a people who were struggling with fundamental concepts of Vatican Two. In 1965 we had enough problems in introducing people to changes in church structure, let alone daring to investigate man's ideas of a taken-for-granted-GOD. Any development of thinking about GOD needs be done in small community dialogue. Certain issues remain untouchable and awaited a more educated people.
Human beings are cautious about issues and decisions that led to major changes from that which they have lived with since childhood. Fear is a dominant factor in many peoples' faith commitment, "things" get sticky when the issue of eternal after-life gets involved. Getting into heaven is one of the ace trump cards the institutions holds; it has a fascinating grip on the human psyche. For many it is best just to go with the old flow and let the sleeping dog lie. My age generation received paltry basics as five/six year olds, for many no more than the physical proper way to receive first communion, that is knell up straight and don't drink any water and perhaps a dry, hardly understandable, Baltimore Catechism perusal at age 12. Lay adult religious education has its beginning less than 30 years ago with little or no awareness of fundamental theologies and certainly these never finding their way into the deep core of a gray-haired Catholic population that I have involved with for sixty years. Religious education today is moving along well at the academic level; it is not even at snail's pace for the average parishioner. A major problem is the great difficulty in trusting a priest these days. Confused people rarely get a clear picture.
I smiled as I read the other day that there is only a small handful around who knew the experience of a pre-Vatican Two Church. I received first communion in 1934 and was confirmed at age 12 in 1942. I was 37 years old as the Council ended in 1965 and an ordained priest of eleven years' service in a Church that woefully needed reform. I am today a pro on church matters – an endangered species not only by age but by what the power boys would like to do to me. As a self-supportive family man living in an independent home-based community of faith they can't touch or punish me. Obviously I am not afraid to pursue truth and Jesus is on my side. Honestly for sanity sake I stand outside the institutional confusion.
Two weeks ago at grandson Sebastian's baseball game I chanced conversation with parents of one of Sebbie's team mates. There were pleasantries exchanged as to our place of birth etc., a sharp contrast to the usual isolation of adults who just watch their own kids. I am very careful to avoid religion or my priest background, easily offering that I am a retired mental health therapist. An alert mother questioned on why I had married so late, an 83-year-old with five grandchildren six and under? I mentioned I had been in the catholic priesthood for 26 years ... and the whole tenor changed. They were members of the Legionaries of Christ, the husband leaving abruptly while the mother continued to question and lecture me about the present deplorable state of women in society and the history of celibacy. The door of exchange was closed with hostility in the air. With closed minds present conversation ceased. My two grandsons would have no appreciation of the history or present limited exchange that had taken place. I was well aware that the couple had no idea of the problems the Legionaries have. I am most grateful that society has Jason Berry to give us solid and honest insight.
Tonight I watched History Channel programs on the discoveries of the Hubble Telescope and the formation of the Universe. It is the world that Michael Morwood refers to in his wonderful description of a changing world...
"We are living through the greatest shift ever in Christian thought. New images of our universe and our planet, along with knowledge about the long, slow development of life on this planet provide us with a new context in which to understand the divine presence we call God always present and active everywhere. Reflection on the universality of this presence leads to further reflection on and renewed appreciation of Jesus as revealer of this mysterious presence in our everyday living and loving, rather than on Jesus as the mediator between us and a faraway deity. A Church always in need of renewal must engage, at all levels, this shift in images and thought if it is to have integrity and relevance in the twenty-first century."
I live in a different world than that experienced by the "little boy from 15th street who happened to become a priest". I appreciate a vastly different picture of the divine mystery (God), our human brother and leader-teacher Jesus, and what I might call "church" aka a faith community. I carefully and hopefully read Eugene Kennedy's NCR articles, mindful that in all honesty the Church Gene writes about is no longer my cup of tea. I do have a nostalgia for church history and a loving respect for John the 23rd, while no longer willing to take part in the apparent freefall. I do keep a watchful eye to see if I can find Jesus. I am confident I am saved as a true human being, here and now, in this world, today.
I believe in God, one taught by my brother Jesus, and I believe in the holy spirit that can be found in all creation. I believe in the goodness of women and men. I accept as my human duty working daily for peace, justice, and the preservation of the gift of creation.
Look into the history of "Trinity"...
I encourage the faithful who adhere to the TRINITY as an adequate definition of God to look into its history. Constantine calls the Council of Nicea in 325 c.e. basically for the political purpose of unifying the disintegrating Roman Empire. Pope Urban 1 refuses to attend and his legates are murdered. Monk theologians use the human words "person" and "three" to offer an explanation of a mystery no one knows anything about. With the Emperor's force the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are adopted and no one dare question. Trinity is a human-made theory, an attempt to give an intimate picture of the Creator we read of in Genesis. I feel no compulsion to make this human-made theory an act of my faith. As I recall my theological training in seminary I am obliged to believe – de fide – that there is a God ... period! The rest is human speculation. Trinity is a nice theory yet it tells me nothing of the UNKNOWN MYSTERY. Does this Mystery have to be described in human terms?
With the magic carpet in spiritual garage we have come to the end of the trail, for now. We have boldly opened a door only to find many more doors await us. In our inadequacy we will continue to use the three letter word for the most profound experience of searching the footprints of the divine. I will continue to look where some may be fearful to go.
Comments (mine and yours) can be found in the Catholica Forum at:
Tom in San Jose, Ca.. 20Jun2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?