Friday, September 30, 2016

Stop saying God!!

Maybe I'm getting back in the habit of regular postings!  This one is about my response to an article that appeared in the University of Notre Dame/St. Mary's College daily student paper. In it, the author writes she lost her faith in Catholicism and God because of her Notre Dame experience, especially her theology and science classes, which led her to doubt there could be a God who cares for each of us individually when the universe is so immense.

“Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity? I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.”

Dear (Author),
I had just read this poem by Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth-century German Dominican mystic, before reading your thoughtful column in today’s Observer.  I share it not to convince or convert you, but to suggest that there are depths of possibility found through religion that are rarely shared with those who have outgrown their childhood faith, but have no adult faith with which to replace it. They do not mature spiritually. Nor are they encouraged to by many Church leaders. (I think Pope Francis is an exception.).

Doubt is an essential part of development in any arena, and certainly in that of faith!  But it need not be the last step. Doubt can help distinguish between what I call the accidentals and the essentials. Too often, more time in religious education of children is spent on the accidentals—those things that might or might not assist in the practice of religion: things like the rosary, rote memorized prayer, etc.

What is essential, in the words of Jesus, is Love.  Here’s my understanding of what he means by that:  God, rather than being the anthropomorphic entity of our childhood, much like Santa Claus, is the essence of being—that from which all things, visible and invisible, get their existence (are created).  All that is, is of one essence—called God, called Love, called Trinity, whatever.  The source of existence.  Not a Him or a Her or an It, but the source of all being, poetically described (but not contained) in Meister Eckhart’s poem.

This is expressed at one end of life by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age”, and at the other end by Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin: “Everything that rises must converge.”  With this understanding, it is not a matter of God caring about humanity as we care for each other, but of God being the essence of humanity, and all that is.  

I’d like to put a fifty year moratorium on the use of the word “God”, because its meaning has been so abused. But remember that faith in God, from a Christian perspective, is incarnational.  Thomas' "force that drives" becomes flesh.

That is why we celebrate the Eucharist: to celebrate the Word made flesh who invites us to claim our true identity in communion.  We are One. We are God’s body and blood. To complete Eckhart’s poem, “We laugh, and give birth to Love.”  The Alpha and the Omega are One.

(Author), I am glad you have come to a place of doubt.  I hope you will be given the grace to move on to the next place in your spiritual journey, wherever that might be.  

Peace, and thanks,

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