"My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not brute strength but glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's
love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." [Ephesians 3:14-19.Translation from The Message – The Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene Peterson.]

Three Pillars

A Reflection by Michael Whelan SM
JThree Pillars

Forgiveness is absolutely necessary to human existence. Without it we fall into despair and chaos. Behind all the hatred and violence in the world – writ large in wars, writ smaller in personal and local strife – you will find lack of forgiveness. This reveals a deep ambiguity in human existence. Hamlet lays it out in his characteristic way: “What a piece of work is man!

How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust!” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.)

The Christian Tradition describes the human situation in terms of three foundational and interrelated truths: (a) The potential: we are intentionally, wisely and lovingly brought into being by God; (b) The need: we are ‘fallen’; we do not have the capacity within ourselves to reach the full potential of who and what we are; (c) The redemption: healing and reconciliation is available individually and communally in Jesus Christ.

We are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). Our beginnings and our ends are shaped irrecoverably by the Mystery we call God. “In the mystery of man, God guards his own mystery”. (Aelred Squire, Asking the Fathers, SPCK, 1972, 21.)

Together with this imprint of divinity there is also a very dark side to human existence: “Like the attack at Helles on August 6, the assault on Lone Pine was a diversion. As with the Helles attack, the casualties were high: more than 2,000 Australians, about 7,000 Turks. But Lone Pine was also that rare thing. On both sides it was an epic of savagery and sacrifice that leaves one wondering again at man's capacity to harbour, within the same brain and the same body, so much that is brutal and so much that is sublime.” (Les Carlyon, Gallipoli, Macmillan, 2001, 357.)

Our sanity depends, in large measure, on how well we deal with both the “brutal” and the “sublime”. For some strange reason, modern Western society seems to have a major problem in facing the “brutal” that is in each of us. “One of the most dangerous fallacies which has influenced a great deal of political and philosophical thinking is that man is essentially good, and that it is society which makes him bad .... Rousseau transformed original sin from man to society and this view has importantly contributed to what I believe has become a crucially incorrect premise on which to base moral and political philosophy.” (Cited by Bernard Weinraub in a January 4, 1972, New York Times article entitled, "Kubrick Tells What Makes Clockwork Orange Tick".)

“Knowledge of God without that of our misery, equals pride. Knowledge of our misery without that of God equals despair. Knowledge of Jesus Christ strikes the balance since in him we find both God and our misery.” (Blaise Pascal cited by B. Bro, The Little Way, Christian Classics, 1980, 64.)

Our Christian faith is a resounding affirmation of human potential. It says unambiguously that darkness and “brutality” will not have the last word, light and the “sublime” will triumph! Our faith in the Risen Lord offers mercy and redemption: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ ....” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19.)