September 15, 2013

Sweeping Woman and Atheist Kid

Sitting a little with the Sunday gospel we have today, Luke's parables of the lost things--the lost sheep, the lost coin, the two lost brothers--I got to thinking on various things. The first was 'seeking.' In Lumen fidei our holy fathers Francis and Benedict spoke a lot about those who 'seek God.' I remember that in the days before I decided to declare myself a 'catechumen'--what vainglorious ignorance to think it worked like that!--one of the labels I learned and which I applied to myself was 'spiritual seeker.' I guess it meant that you were looking for something, though you weren't yet sure what it was.

But this search for God, this 'seeking' is, at least in part, a sort of optical illusion of the interior vision; it is how our limited minds and spirits come to experience God seeking us. To me this is one of the beauties of Luke's parables in how they illustrate God as a seeker after persons. In this regard I love the image of the woman sweeping the house in search of the lost coin. I remember preaching on it two Year Cs ago at my Mass of Thanksgiving at Harkness Chapel at Connecticut College, on the campus where I finally came around to knowing that I wanted to surrender to the God who was seeking me.

Sweeping your room, on the one hand you need a gentle hand; sweep too quickly or too hard and the dust will just fly somewhere else. But on the other hand you have to be thorough and determined if you want to find the cleanliness you seek or whatever else you're looking for. And so it is with God; like the woman sweeping he seeks our souls with the gentlest yet most determined movements of the spirit. And just as the woman dusts off the lost coin so that its brilliance may complement her joy at finding it, so it is God's joy to clean our souls so that they shine anew to his glory.

I also got to thinking on an experience from my vacation that has stayed with me. I was taking my walk and I saw a kid wearing a t-shirt announcing that he was 'God free.' What an impoverished image of God and what a reduced concept of deity we have allowed the world to have such that someone could imagine it a choice to be associated with God or not! For God the Creator is the very ground of that kid's being, an overflowingly Benevolence that wills him and all created things into existence at each moment that passes in the time that he also created. And the very blessing of reasoning by which that kid thinks on the non-question, 'does God exist?' is a reasoning done by and in the shadow of the Word, the Reason proceeding from the Unbegotten Source, the same Reason/Word by which God creates all things and by which he has recreated us by uniting that Word to our humanity in Jesus Christ.

We often allow God to be reduced to something much narrower than he was even for our Medieval forebears; he becomes either a mythological personage, indistinguishable for modern people from someone like Santa Claus, or a concept to be employed or not as one sees fit. But God is not a thing at all; he is not a 'what.' God is only 'Who.' And he is the Who and the Personality that renders all other being and personality possible, and not only possible, but blessed.

And he is here, right here, right now, in the eternal here and now that is his proper Eternity. And he is sweeping, gently, looking for souls. He is too gentle and respectful of his creatures to force them, but rather seeks their consent to be found anew each day, that he may dust off our souls from the grime that we have insisted upon for ourselves with our distraction and sin, such that we may begin again to shine to his glory and to  reflect to each other the brilliance of his Light.


Unknown said...

Yes, God is like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, watching and waiting for us to return to Him. He does indeed seek us out. But we must never cease to seek Him. For if we do, we just might miss His seeking us. Let us always hunger for Him, for if we cease to hunger, we might cease to approach Him in His Eucharistic presence. Let us always thirst for Him, for if we cease to thirst we may cease to seek the Fountain of Living Water springing up within us. He told us to ask, to seek and to knock. Let us always be askers, seekers and knockers. Master, please open for us!

Antonia said...

Thank you for this beautiful reflection. Being sought and found by God - and regularly dusted off! - is an ongoing experience, Deo Gratias!

Sara said...

Fr. Charles-

I have an attachment to this parable. My first year on the RCIA team, on my way to the first meeting of the year with the inquirers, I asked God to give me the heart of the woman who sweeps her house looking for the lost coin. It is the kind of prayer that I might have hesitated to make if I was wiser, but at the time I made it in all innocence.

Later than year when things got rough, I was reminded of that prayer and it was a great consolation to know that my heartsickness was also a gift.