Revelation: Receiving God

Pope Francis:

I ask you: How do you abide in the presence of the Lord? When you visit the Lord, when you look at the tabernacle, what do you do? Without speaking… “But I speak, I talk, I think, I meditate, I listen…” Very good! But do you let yourself be looked at by the Lord? Letting ourselves be gazed upon by the Lord. He looks at us and this is itself a way of praying. Do you let yourselves be gazed upon by the Lord? But how do you do this? You look at the tabernacle and you let yourselves be looked at… it is simple! “It is a bit boring, I fall asleep”. Fall asleep then, sleep! He is still looking at you. But know for sure that he is looking at you! This is much more important than having the title of catechist. It is part of “being” a catechist. This warms the heart, igniting the fire of friendship with the Lord, making you feel that he truly sees you, that he is close to you and loves you. In one of my visits here in Rome, at a Mass, a fairly young man came up to me and said: “Father, it is nice to meet you, but I don’t believe in anything! I don’t have the gift of faith!” He understood that faith is a gift. “I don’t have the gift of faith! What do you have to say to me?” “Don’t be discouraged. God loves you. Let yourself be gazed upon by him! Nothing else”. And this is the same thing I would say to you: Let yourselves be gazed at by the Lord! I understand that for you it is not so easy; especially for those who are married and have children, it is difficult to find a long period of quiet time. Yet, thanks be to God, it is not necessary for everyone to do this in the same way. In the Church, there are a variety of vocations and a variety of spiritualities. What is important is to find the way best suited for you to be with the Lord, and this everyone can do; it is possible for every state of life. Now each one of you could ask: how am I experiencing “being” with Jesus? This is a question I leave you: “How do I experience this remaining with Jesus, abiding in Jesus? Do I find time to remain in his presence, in silence, to be looked upon by him? Do I let his fire warm my heart? If the warmth of God, of his love, of his tenderness is not in our own hearts, then how can we, who are poor sinners, warm the heart of others? Think about it!”[1]

Comment: This experience is revelation. This is the experience of Peter when he and the apostles began to pray with Jesus to the Father (Lk. 9, 18). As you pray, permit the Father to gaze on you until you begin to sense receiving Him. Ratzinger explanation: “‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act [Scripture]. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’”[2] This means that you, in receiving Christ, become “Revelation.” Revelation is a Person, not a text. Revelation of the act of obedience of the whole self going beyond self – or letting the self be gone beyond. It is the Samaritan woman replying to Christ’s command: “Bring me your husband.” When she says, “I have no husband” she is immediately made aware that this man is the Christ. That is, there is a subjective experience that mimics the Trinitarian Person [Son]. A consciousness comes with that, and that consciousness can be many things depending on what kind of action it was: it can be conscience, faith, natural law, meaning, “self” [“I”] (Helen Keller’s experience of naming the water at the pump). It depends. But it is an act of self-transcendence, which is the physiognomy of Divine Person. Therefore, we enter Christ’s words: Only the Father knows the Son, and only the Son knows the Father and he to whom the Son reveals him (Mt. 11, 27).

Let Christ ask you: “Bring me your husband!” And you tell the truth about yourself: “I have no husband” (Jn. 4, 18)

 Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. [1]

For example, you don’t become loving by saying to yourself, “Be loving!” Instead, you recognize your “shortcomings,” the moments when you were totally unloving, and you weep over them. That doesn’t feel like power at all, does it? No one wants to go there. But it is actually a negative capability that creates space, desire, and momentum, like a stretched rubber band.

You might say to yourself, “I just did it again! I treated that person as if they were inferior to me. Where does that come from inside of me? What is the part of me that needs to do that–that needs to control other people and think of myself as superior?” Until you catch yourself being unloving, I don’t think you will change.

Unfortunately, most of us have been trained to strive for perfection by willpower and determination. In men’s work we call this the heroic journey. Self-assertion and striving characterize the young male, and this is the shape his ego takes. Yet all spiritual traditions at their more mature levels teach that the soul must be receptive before God and simply accept love, without heroic effort. It is a path of descent more than ascent, unlearning more than learning, letting go more than any performance principle. It takes a long time to believe this.

If we try to fix ourselves, we’ll do it with the same energy that caused the problem in the first place–which only strengthens our ego style. Instead, the Twelve Steps ask God to do the work that only God can do. To reverse an old aphorism: We must pray as if it all depends on us, and work as if it all depends on God (yes, you read that correctly)! God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited (Richard Rohr).

[1] Francis, “Being With Christ,” Address to the Participants at the International Congress on Catechesis, 27 September 2013.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “Miletones…” Ignatius (1999) 108.