Sunday, July 4, 2021

Back at Home

Jesus comes home, and his own people don’t know what to do with him. Their initial response to his mighty deeds and to the wisdom of his teaching is amazement. “Wow. Where did he get all of this? What kind of wisdom is this? What mighty deeds!” But then the whole thing unravels. They talk themselves out of wonder, and they try to make Jesus somehow manageable. “He’s only a carpenter, after all, Mary’s son. We know his relatives. Come on. We know where he comes from.” In the end, they find Jesus offensive and altogether too much for them - that divine power could be so mundane, so accessible, so familiar. The result is tragic indeed, the tragic loss of wonder. Jesus is so confounded by their lack of faith that he finds himself unable to perform any mighty deeds there. He is as powerless as Samson with his hair cut off.

Wonder allows God to be God. It beckons us to be aware, to see as God sees, and to take nothing for granted. Wonder receives with open hands, open heart; it never grasps; it loves all God loves and gives and gazes upon. Wonder does what God does. It is reverent awe that is at once humble and selfless. Wonder speaks as John the Baptist and says, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

But when we refuse to notice reverently, the whole thing collapses. So what. Big deal. I know where this is coming from. It’s all too familiar, too ordinary - whether it be the pattern of light falling upon a wall, a blossom or a tiny bug inching along, or the unexpected kindness of a friend or even a passage of Scripture. Wonder is then poisoned by cynicism, the absolute enemy of contemplation.

Wonder happens when we allow ourselves to be disarmed by God’s in-breaking and respond with reverent awe. It lets us acknowledge what we do not know or may never know or understand, to acknowledge and appreciate our limits, our finiteness. It is a different kind of knowledge, a state of being with the world and with oneself that, like being in love, colors all we know. (See Peter de Bolla) It allows humble faith; it allows uncertainty. Like love, wonder allows all things, believes all things. It lets God be God, magnificent, extravagant but also hidden and quiet and unremarkable. We begin to see the world ever charged with the divine, with an ever-present porosity - a thinness between the ordinary and the divine.

To pray we must relax into an unknowing that is a certitude beyond argument. To allow Christ in means I don’t have to understand; I believe. I pay attention. I gaze on beauty as well as confusion and believe that God is working. I allow myself to be disarmed and fascinated by Christ and how he will use anything at all to get my attention. Our life of liturgy and prayer demands wonder, not dramatic but real and ongoing; an unwillingness to judge, a willingness to be still, a second naiveté, perhaps a constant naiveté, back down to a place where we can be amazed and inefficient, unaccomplished. Prayer and liturgy are after all essentially inefficient - they do not accomplish anything. They very simply grant us the inestimable privilege of praising Almighty God. (See Robert Taft)

Photograph by Brother Brian.