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Christ, goodness and light are constant

| Friday, December 5, 2014

I don’t know if any of you have read the columnist David Brooks from the New York Times, but I have taken a liking to him recently. His articles began to pop up on my Facebook news feed earlier this year.

The first article I read was titled, “Stairway to Wisdom.” In it, Brooks analyzes the ways we learn and acquire information about social problems.

He starts by analyzing the benefits of science, which, as he states, are advantageous in that they allow researchers to make “informed generalizations about how people are behaving.”

But this quest to understand others, he says, is ultimately limited in that it does not “allow for deep understanding.” In other words, it doesn’t allow for the beauty and complexity of the human person to emerge, a beauty that can never be fully defined or contained by a set of statistics or data.

Brooks then goes on to write, “We all know people whose lives are breathtakingly unpredictable: a Mormon leader who came out of the closet and became a gay dad; an investment banker who became a nun; a child with a wandering anthropologist mom who became president.”

In sum, we never know what remains hidden, what dreams hover beneath the surface of our souls and the souls of others, ready to emerge into bodily and material reality like a caterpillar from its cocoon.

And that’s precisely the point. Brooks observes, “To move the next rung up the ladder of understanding you have to dive into the tangle of individual lives.”

Of course, that task is easier said then done. Who wants to encounter the difficulty of the tangle or the messier parts of life? Dive there and you can count on a journey that’s sure to involve a little bruising, battering or maybe even some serious injury.

We fear what we do not know. To stand face to face on the precipice of a tough reality, to stand in anticipation of a journey we (most likely) will not be able to control — that could be one of most daunting challenges put to humanity.

And it’s daunting because of our expectations. We expect a “good” life. We expect to be “healthy.” We expect to receive what we are due if we work hard. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the reality that stares us back in the face.

Sometimes these expectations cloud our vision. Too often, I think, we look at the exterior of another person’s life and observe that everything is going right for them. But that image is a mirage. No one’s life is perfect. No day will be the “perfect” day. No relationship the “perfect” relationship. Why? Because that’s life.

Presumptions and observations without deeper knowledge are like cataracts for the soul. They cloud our vision, distancing us from the reality we seek to know. Try to see anything from so great a distance, and it will appear distorted, fuzzy and not true to form. Our eyes might show us what we want to see, but we will be settling for a cheap version of reality.

Fortunately Christ, the great bridge-builder, has sought to show us true reality, a reality anchored and rooted in love.

In the Incarnation, Christ lived out this love to the fullest. He took on humanity, bridging the man-made chasm of sin that had separated human and divine. He drew close in order that we might see him clearly. He came to us so that we might see and freely choose him again and desire our union with him just as much as he desired it with us.

Brooks sums it up perfectly: “Love impels you not just to observe, but to seek union — to think as another thinks and feel as another feels.” Christ wept, like us; he suffered, like us; he died, like us. But, he also rose from the dead and showed us that, in him, death would not be the end of our story.

But death always wants to silence love. It wants to exploit the fact that the “bad stuff” does not disappear in a moment and that pain is, often times, not any easier to face.

But when we choose Christ, when we draw closer to him, we see that he has already promised us a different ending: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

It’s Christ who is constant, not sin or death.

And like Christ, we must be constants for one another. We must continue to draw close, to shine Christ’s light for each other when the darkness in our lives becomes too great to bear alone.

We must remind each other that we are reflections of eternal light. And no tangle will, if we remember Christ’s promise, be able to contain that light.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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