TUESDAY OF LENT WEEK 3
Gospel Mt 18:21-35. Were you not bound to have pity as I had pity on you?
Occasionally people report a dream in which they blissfully find what they are looking for at the deepest and fullest level. They say it is as if they were working on a complex problem and suddenly it was solved - with simplicity, elegance and total beauty. Scientists often use these terms to describe their greatest discoveries. When the dreamer awakes, they are still aglow from this experience of pure truth. But when they try to remember what the solution was that gave them such a moment of fullness and joy, the glow rapidly fades; and soon, as they return to ordinary consciousness, it is at a great distance from this discovery. In fact, they have even forgotten even what it was they had been looking for. All that remains is an afterglow made of seeking and finding – but for what or how has now been lost – as happens to so much of our dream life. No wonder people wonder what they will remember of this life in the next life. Perhaps this is the real question about our ‘survival’ – there will be no memory because all will be now.
There are things we cannot hope to explain at this mundane level of awareness. The more we try to, the more the reality of it recedes. If you keep trying to solve the ‘problem of God’, for example, you will be left holding onto many ideas and counterarguments. You may become a world expert on the theory but you will feel that the taste of God has disappeared and become dry and stale.
Truth’s elusiveness is an eternal challenge to our left hemisphere. Even the Way and the Truth is a challenge. We can feel we are ‘following Jesus’ with a stronger sense of union growing over the years. At times if you thought of leaving the relationship you repeated to yourself St Peter’s words ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Yet, despite this and all the theologies expounded over millennia about Jesus and his meaning for humanity no single explanation has been found. The questions ‘who is he?’ or ‘what did he do?’ lead us towards a receding horizon. This is a little embarrassing when you need to explain your faith to someone who doesn’t follow him. On the other hand, it may be the best proof that discipleship is not illusory. Even stranger, is that the more you accept this state of irreducible unknowing the more peace you feel about it.
One further illustration of this peculiar situation is in the experience of meditation when we lose self-consciousness to the degree that we enter the fullness of consciousness. ‘The monk who knows that he is praying, is not truly praying’, say the mothers and fathers of the desert. This is a statement about the nature of the highest experience we are capable of in this life. It may sound absurd – as paradoxes do – and inexplicable. Yet it also bears an authority we are inclined to trust. Maybe the very fact that it is so impossible to explain shows we can believe it to be true.
Lenten Reflections 2021