Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29th: Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

- Patrick Sier, '11

Today’s Gospel is one that has likely led many people to atheism. Now
that I have your attention I would like to explain why. Think about it, in our daily
lives it’s easy to get caught up in numbers. Luckily for me, I dropped
all my math classes this year. Beyond the easier course load, this is
also a blessing for my relationship with God. In today’s Gospel, Peter
is fishing for a number of times that one must forgive a transgressor.
Jesus replies to his repeated inquiries that we must forgive them “not
seven times, but seventy-seven times.”


Now, in this day and age, people would either try to take 77
literally or interpret it in some analytical way or another. What God
intends us to do is understand that he is infinitely forgiving and he
expects us to be too. But in a world where easy answers and quick data
are the name of the game, this insight is difficult to achieve and even 
more taxing to put into practice.
As Abba Duns has often observed of the “Control-F Generation” we want
easy, quantitative, manageable answers, and if we can’t get them we
reject the question. To the question: “how many times should we
forgive others?” we look at the scriptural passage and observe what
appears to be an absurd number, and then doubt that God has any part
to play in forgiveness or morality.
Because getting the real answer involves reading between the lines of
the text, and because the real answer itself involves a concept of the
infinite that is not easy to wrap one’s head around, we reject it. Now
we have famous physicists such as Stephen Hawking reducing the
infinite to something tangible, something that is simply a naturally
repeating constant. Hawking believes that if it is physically possible 
that the universe can expand and contract, in effect causing a big bang 
each time, that it is not necessary for their to have been a creator because
 the system is simply made up of perpetual motion.
This passage, beyond the easily accessed meaning imploring us to
forgive infinitely, calls us not to wrap our minds and logic around a
concept, but simply appreciate it in awe. This isn’t simply dismissing
a far more intellectual issue. It is acknowledging what we don’t know.
Humanity cannot and will not ever know how everything was formed, and
humanity will never know everything about God, merely that he exists. 
There is no easy answer to the world’s biggest question.
The answer to the question then lies within our lives. It’s not easy
to find. In my own life I’ve chosen to ignore it. For most of my high
school life I was an atheist. I believed that because God was not a
data sheet or an easily observable presence that he wasn’t real. I
didn’t recognize the fragility of language in translating the grandeur
of something as spectacular as a deity.
The solution to this quandary was acceptance of life as a mystery,
and recognition of the luminous spots of God’s revelation that I saw
within my own life. I saw my friends, family, people who loved me as
bright spots with God behind them. I finally began seeing God as the
framework by which all else was held up and in existence. God was not
revealed in numbers or a voice, but through putting the pieces
together and reading through the lines of my life the divine
inspiration holding it together.
Herein lies the challenge for my generation. We are given the choice
to either accept life for what it is—mysterious and inexplicable at
times, or trying to shoehorn it into categorizations and labels. Take
the time during Lent to truly examine your life and see where you have
been looking for God. Have you been waiting for a booming voice to
sound down? Or have you been looking into the eyes of your neighbor to
find Jesus?


Nan said...

Thank you for being a luminous spot in my life today!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an amazing reflection.

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