Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, considers our need to focus beyond ourselves to gain a better perspective on those around us.
There is a sense of mystery not only in special moments of quiet wonder but also within our daily exercise of freedom. Father Michael Paul Gallagher likens this to the way stained-glass windows cannot be seen properly from outside the building, but only from inside with the sun shining outside. So too, he says, a person’s spiritual stance determines what they will be able to see. This inner perspective is what Jesus quoted from Isaiah concerning those who remain on the outside: they listen but never understand (Mark 4:12). It is also the logic of Mary’s "Magnificat" with its insistence that God scatters the proud of heart and sends the rich away empty.
When I consider those who bring joy into my life, it is their own sense of joy that sparks mine. They don’t even have to try to befriend me or live for other than that sense of wonder. Those who live in the Christian mystery raise up our thoughts. When my grand-nephew was a baby, we sat him in a high chair in the church hall for a dinner. Instead of complaining about being strapped into a chair, I saw him look up in wonder. I immediately followed his eyes up to the ceiling. It was the ceiling fan that amazed him. Soon his small arms were lifted and joy was visible on his face. He was not caught up in what he didn’t have but at the wonders he could enjoy. I was also caught up in his wonder, remembering all the small things that children explore each day as new and amazing.
Today so much news comes to us in a variety of media. We can decry the agenda driven reports or cry over the suffering others endure. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us,
The core of Christianity is a love story between God and humanity. If we could understand this in the language of today, everything else would follow. An intellectual approach on its own is not enough. We have to offer people living spaces of communion and of traveling together. Only through concrete experiences and existential witness is it possible to make the Christian message real today. (Pope Benedict XVI, La Repubblica newspaper, 19 November 2004)
The good news of today is that we can focus on the wonder of this love story between God and humanity. God’s love for each person is unique and immense. If God wrote a Chicken Soup for the Soul book (or volumes of books!) it would be titled How Much I Love You. Each story in the volumes would remind us that we only know some of the story – we know our communal salvation history story and we know a little about how we are caught up in that stream of salvation.
Our prayer for the other is how we enter their love story with God discovering the paschal mystery at work in the depths of their life. This mystery of communion is a wonder too. As easy as it is for me to try to give someone the right answer or correct their confusion, it is that much harder for me to love them. They are the other that I fear. Pope Benedict VXI defined sin as fear of the other. What does that mean? Is it because my fear of losing control of truth is highlighted? Is it because I genuinely fear for that person’s soul and happiness? I tell myself this is the case. Or is it because offering this “living space of communion and traveling together to make the Christian message real,” is not easy.
Just consider family life. I can consider community life. Living in communion sounds great on paper. It seems to be an ideal. However, my expectations create a sense of loss of control. Why is this happening and not that? Why isn’t God acting now? Can this person please change! This is when I need to pause and surrender. When I am rich in my own self-estimation, then I want things to go as I imagine best. God lifts the poor. I ask to be lifted from my small focus.
As the couple on the road to Emmaus, I also pause before the Eucharistic presence of Jesus in silence. We both stare across the chapel as witnesses of each other. Knowing that I am loved unconditionally returns me to be one with God’s intention. My daily going about life is at its best when I am a witness to the wonder of the other within the mystery and wonder of God’s love.
Copyright 2021 Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP
Image by Vassil: "A stained glass window in Saint Jacques's Church, Liège (Belgium): the Visitation," CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
About the Author
A Daughter of St. Paul for 40 years Sr. Margaret continues to pursue new ways to proclaim the Gospel: sharing the Pauline Charism with the laity, writing books (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross; Prayers for the New Evangelization), & through direct evangelization. She is available for workshops on the Vocation & Mission of the Laity, Media Literacy, and The New Evangelization. email@example.com