Arts and Culture

A Moral Union

Fifth in a series

There is a section of Ronald Rolheiser’s The Passion and the Cross (Franciscan Media, 2015, pp. 112) that I have returned to several times. What Rolheiser has written in this section I think is very important but I have never encountered the ideas the way he has expressed them. He is writing about what he refers to as moral loneliness and moral union. I think what he is referring to is what I would call the deepest center of the self.

Rolheiser writes:

“It is the place we most guard from others, but the place we most want others to enter; the place where we are most deeply alone and the place of intimacy; the place of innocence and the place where we are violated; the place of compassion and the place of rage.

The yearning and pain we feel here can be called moral loneliness because we are feeling lonely in that precise place where we feel most strongly about the right and wrong of things: that is, we feel alone in that place where what is most precious to us is cherished and guarded and feels vulnerable when it is not properly honored.

Paradoxically, it is the place where we most want someone to enter and yet where we are most guarded.”

At the deepest level of the self what we want more than any other reality is the loving presence of God. I hope that I am not guarding myself against the entrance of God into the depth of myself. That would really be self-destructive activity. Augustine got it right when he indicated that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Having very close friendships is one of the great blessings in life. Probably nothing resembles a love relationship with God more than a loving friendship with another human person. Magnificent as such relationships are they fall short when compared to a loving relationship with God. Only God can fill the deepest level of our selves. The good news of Jesus is that God loves us beyond what we can imagine. God wants to enter our lives at the deepest level of ourselves. If I really believe that, of what am I afraid? I should have the courage to allow God to transform me. All of us should have that type of courage. We should have the type of hope that moves us to risk everything on God’s love. If we take that risk, we cannot lose. There is nothing more powerful than God’s love.

Perhaps for most of us it is lifelong task to allow God to enter our deepest selves or at least it might take a lifetime to experience the presence of the Lord in our deepest center and to relish the joy that follows, a joy that puts everything into a proper perspective.

I think of the Lenten season as a shortened, perhaps more intense, period of time that mirrors our entire life. For many years

Lent meant to me multiplying devotions and ascetical practices. As I recall, there was a time when I made lists of what I “was doing for Lent.” Reading Rolheiser has helped me to see that, at least for me at this time in my life, putting aside time to allow God to communicate with me seems much more important than multiplying devotions or taking on new projects.

Of course we do not force God to enter the center of our lives. God is present there as creator and as redeemer. God enters before invited. Our task would seem to be to welcome God’s presence and to allow God’s love to change us. The journey toward personal transformation might take a lifetime but is there any journey more important?

Pointing out that Jesus’ words on the cross “It is finished” mean that the reign of sin and death is finished, Rolheiser writes:

“It is the end of an order of things wherein we live our lives believing that every day joys give way to darkness and the underworld, paranoia and sin unmask trust and goodness as naïve, the reality of the physical world and this life is all there is, compromise and infidelity trump everything else, and death is more real than hope. This order is also finished; it is exposed as unreal, as a lie, by love, fidelity, gentleness, trust, childlikeness, vulnerability, and the paradoxical power of a God who, in the deeper recesses of things, works more by underwhelming than by overpowering.”

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