Tuesday, September 23, 2014

to doubt is human

"It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he only gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by his contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him. And yet--is this not the truly divine way? Not to overwhelm with external power, but to give freedom, to offer and elicit love."
--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II: Holy Week

The sea foam that iced the crests of the turbulent waves fell in a heap and swirled around my legs.
Small little clumps of sea bubbles were stranded on the beach, as the rest of the water was sucked back into the ocean.
The funny thing about the beach is that it is quite dead.
The waves die with a crash at our feet, all the beautiful shells are the cast-off exteriors of dead animals, and all sorts of dead items: sand dollars, jellyfish, driftwood, end up on the sandy graveyard.
And yet it feels so alive. As you stand in the shallows of the ocean, breathing in the stinging sea air, you cannot help but feel very, very alive.
And it's very strange that humans run down to the banks of the ocean to play, as if we had forgotten how many of our own kind stormy seas had swallowed whole. As if we had never heard stories of shipwrecks or typhoons or hurricanes. The ocean is such a deadly entity. 
And yet, as I stand in the foamy white surf, the tides gently pulling at my feet, all I can think of is the life that this ocean makes possible. 
I seem to be standing in a teeming expanse of life.
The horizon stretches out in front of me, challenging me to imagine a world larger than the one that exists in my own head, beckoning me into a reality that is beyond the realm of my own experience.
The ocean ruses around my feet, and all the stories that it has seen are truly alive in its salty waves.
The mystery of time is dissolved in its briny depths. And time is such an iron master of the human experience, which we fight against with every weapon we have: our intellect, our creativity, our memory, our faith. For we have a faith with truly believes in people with names who were born to certain people other people--also with names (names are very stubborn things. They make you stand out of the general and become a particular)-- who lived and died millennia ago. Whose stories, unlike those of so many other billions of humans, were not lost in the sands of time. Whose reality, for some reason, it seems harder for so many of us to believe in than the reality of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, or George Washington. Perhaps because so much rides on the men and women whose stories we read in the Scriptures. A very awful lot rides on the veracity of their stories. And if we accept them, we cannot be the same.
 But here, on the shores of the sea, it is easier to imagine the absurd particularities of Christianity. 
Because, here on the shore of something so immense and vast and universal stand I, a very particular absurdity. And the very fact that I am a human, distinct and separate than the water in the ocean, is an absurd miracle indeed.
By all counts, it is improbable and impossible that I can stand here.
And yet here I am.

If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen. He is alive. Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path. With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus' pierced side and confess: "My Lord and my God!"
--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazarath, Part II: Holy Week.

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