How Can This Be?
I have been thinking lately about the Gospel. Specifically I have been thinking about just the Gospel alone, without considering how it relates to poverty. As is sort of a hallmark of living in Christ, I have been struck square between the eyes repeatedly that I really do not get it. Within the pages of the Evangelist’s (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) writing, I find these tensions that there is no hope in reconciling because we find mutually contradictory statements that have the same truth.
Consider, for instance, the differences between the historical Incarnation and the historical Resurrection. In the Incarnation, Christ comes to take up full and complete residence within the Virgin. His message travels through her greeting to her cousin Elizabeth and affects a change within the Baptist who dwells within Elizabeth. In the Resurrection, we find the Power of God encountering our absolute human frailty to the point of complete, utter total expiration — the hideous experience of death. We see the effects of sin so great to seemingly kill Love. We encounter the great adversary, the devil. But within the Resurrection, we see the Power of God working something far more than we could ever think to ask for or to imagine. Christ entered fully into the depths of death of His own free will to shatter the bonds of death so fully and completely apart from any action that would even hint at the idea of our “helpfulness.”
Christ lives within us. Christ acts outside of us. Yes. Both. Christ invites us from outside and compels us from within. Indeed.
How. can. this. be?
Why is it that the Gospel so readily embraces a configuration that absolutely confounds us? How can mercy and justice kiss each other? How is the Lawgiver the same as the Love? Why do we speak of sinners and saints? Why do we talk of acceptance and transformation?
In short, I am coming to realize that to be human, we need both. We need feasting and fasting. We need admonishment and encouragement. We need to receive and we need to give. We need “Yes” and we need “No.”
And we struggle to see the depths of both our poverty and our riches. Rather paradoxically the Gospel brings these to balance. But the Gospel does not make a whole lot of sense. One of the things that I am noticing about the Gospel is that I tend to grab onto one part, at the expense of the other.
Thinking about how the Gospel acts in our world, I marvel at how often we screw up the message. When serving the poor, it is much easier to talk about their material poverty and our invitation to act so as to alleviate their suffering rather than to talk about how their material poverty reflects our spiritual poverty. It is seemingly easier to mourn the poor than to realize that Christ calls them “blessed.” We can focus on praying that God would act or focus on how we can we can act (be it personally or politically). We can talk about the effects of sin in their lives or we can look to the many ways the poor manifest the Kingdom of God.
How can this be? How can all of these paradigms be relevant? How can they be simultaneously relevant?
Lord, help! I do not understand! This Mystery is marvelous, awe-inspiring, and frightening! I want to believe but I want to know what all is going to happen… Save me from the crippling agents of fear and doubt, and open to me the Way of trusting Life!
And I have to wonder if trying to live in this uncomfortable transcendent space connects us to Him who is. So perhaps it is worth to ask God the second question in the Gospel of St Luke “How will this be?” as opposed to the first question in the Gospel of St Luke “How will I know this?”