Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Lady of Lourdes/Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time (I)

Genesis 3:1-8 / Mark 7:31-37

In C.S. Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress, there is a scene in which our protagonist, John, has been placed in prison, guarded by a giant. However, the giant's power is not limited, nor even especially found, in his imposing size, but rather in the power of his eyes. Wherever the giant casts his gaze, whatever he looks upon is rendered transparent, its innards laid bare for all to see. For John, to see himself and his fellow prisoner thus exposed is horrifying and demoralizing. It is too much to imagine that we are "truly" the hideous working of our inner organs, more "truly" the diseases we do not see, and not the world of surfaces we are accustomed to know.

John is only set free when Reason comes to his rescue. She reminds him that what the giant with his X-ray eyes shows is not a natural appearance, but an unnatural one. It does not so much lay bare what is truly the case as present before the eyes things in a way and manner that the eye, and thus the mind, was not meant to understand and see them. In this way, she contends, we fail to see what is true by the giant's prying gaze.

We often find our faith falling under criticisms, generally from those who believe, sometimes from our fellow believers, and occasionally even from ourselves, which wonder why God would not make himself and the truth about him more obvious, more accessible. Why, if God heals the deaf and mute in Galilee, does he not restore severed limbs at a word? Why, even in light of the voluminous documentation of healings at Lourdes through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, does God not go the one extra step and bring it about that no one would ever leave that holy place without an irrefutable case of a supernaturally-produced, physical cure?

One of the tragedies of the Fall, of the wounding of our human nature arising from sin, is that we no longer see things rightly. It is not that what we see is untrue in every respect. Eve, after all, saw that the forbidden tree tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom, and in this she was not mistaken. However, to see these features of the tree without seeing them in light of God's unmistakable warning of doom — it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’ — is in truth to fail to see them as they are. Eve's transgression, which would become Adam's by his collusion, and through him would touch all of us, his sons and daughters, has ever since places all of our eyes out of focus, has made our perspective too narrow, too close, too constricted, to see things as they were meant to be seen, to see things such that they disclose the whole truth of themselves, and not a partial fact that, taken alone, distorts its wholesome unity.

So used are we to this false vision that God's drawing close to us, or rather his drawing us closer to him, looks at first glance at a failure on God's part to disclose. If our vision is to be made right, if we are to hear and speak as we ought about him, about ourselves, and about the world around us, we must allow him to take us off by himself away from the crowd, away from our accustomed, prying, falsifying gaze. He will come to us as he sent the Virgin to Bernadette, not openly asserting her identity as we might have liked, but in her, what we might regard as overly modest, even coy delay in announcing herself — Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou — succeeding more dramatically in making his work known to the world.

God is making himself known to us. His voice is clear and unmistakable. It is we who need his help to see again, we who need to relearn how to listen and how to speak.

No comments: