Monday, September 24, 2012

Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t

The struggle that most of us face in our spiritual quest is not so much that sometimes we get it and that sometimes we don’t.  That’s, strangely, understandable.  After all, the teachings of the Gospel and the life-codes of the entire Bible are written in often-cryptic forms which incorporates story, analogue, idiom, poetry, parable, and also direct, cut-to-the-chase teachings.  And sometimes, it does depend on our state of mind, what crossed our paths during the day, or what our eyes happened to read prior to their landing on the sacred words, that influences our understanding of scripture.  To get it all the time would necessarily mean that we hold before us at each moment a comprehensive proficiency and mastery of revelation, theology and spirituality.  It would also mean that we are constantly aware of God’s unconditional love and mercy, his unabated presence inside of our twisted and convoluted humanity, how he is so hidden and yet identified in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the incarcerated and the dying, how he very often writes straight with crooked lines, how he speaks deep truths with the language of paradox, and that we are constantly aware of how dying to self is one of the surest ways to rising to new life.  All these are each in itself a deep truth, and at the same time so mystical; so beautiful and yet so challenging.  Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t.  That’s the truth, and it applies to the best of us.

Perhaps it is the ego-need in each of us that somewhat demands that we get it all the time.  We tend to treat spirituality as some sort of attainment quest, where we may even tend to silently boast  to ourselves that we get it most of the time.  But even the saint who finally manages to fully collapse into the immense sea of God’s divine love at the end of his or her life would have to tell you in all honesty that even reaching that point is getting it and not getting it.  What we can only do is to give ourselves (cooperating with God’s grace of course) moments throughout our day and throughout our lives where we glance at the reality of God’s presence in our lives and respond adequately in love and with the best of our generosity. 

Maybe a concrete example will be able to bring this about in a more lucid and coherent way. 

Slightly over month back, when I was back home in Singapore, there was in the sky above us a strange phenomenon.  The afternoon sun was surrounded by a circular rainbow.  I did some research and found out that it is indeed a rare sight, and that it is called a Sun Rainbow, or a Solar Halo.  Certain conditions had to come together in order  to have that happen.  There has to be high and thin cirrus clouds, above 20,000 feet, where these clouds can, due to the ice crystals in them, refract the sunlight like a prism that shows the colours of a rainbow.  It was a spectacular sight, and I took a few pictures of it with my phone, and sent it via my messenger app to some of my friends who were themselves rather amazed by what was happening right above them. 

While in downtown Singapore that afternoon, I kept looking up in the sky to see if this phenomenon was going to continue to happen.  Right in front of me was a sea of busy shoppers that thronged the Orchard Road pedestrian walkway.  They were either busy on the phone, or chatting with their company, lost in personal thoughts or just enjoying some time in the sun.  But hardly any of them realized that if they had only looked up, they would see something quite amazing and unusual.  Meanwhile, my friends to whom I sent the photos to were constantly updating me on what they were seeing in their ‘neck of the woods’.  I found this to be a very interesting experience.  The entire phenomenon lasted for only about half an hour.

Using this as an analogue, we can begin to see anew the reality of how in our spiritual lives that we too, sometimes see it (or realise it), and sometimes don’t.  The truths of the Gospel are never changing, and the fact that God loves us unconditionally is steadfast and unfailing.  That we are alive by the grace of God at each moment of our lives is something that we may not acknowledge, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is a truth.  At certain moments of our lives, we are given special grace-moments to be aware of just how deep God’s love for us is, and we hear the clarion call to respond graciously, generously and with great love.  When these moments happen, and we are aware of them, it’s akin to someone telling us to look up and see for ourselves the Solar Halo above us.  It's not there because we looked up.  It is there whether we look up or not.    

On that sunny Saturday afternoon in Singapore, there were millions who were walking, eating, swimming, chatting, and sitting under that Solar Halo, but only a few realized it.  Indeed some were getting it, and some were not.  If only we could find a way to tell more people to raise their gaze to the heavens.  That must be our shared task as Christians.  

By the way, I only happened to know about it because a friend's son pointed it out to us.  Sometimes we just need to be recipients of good news and know that it should be spread because it's just too spectacular to keep it to ourselves.


  1. ‘’............ that sometimes we get it and that sometimes we don’t............’

    I would say that - it is sometimes we get it and oft times we don’t! And I do agree that probably it is the ego-need in each of us that demands we get it all the time.

    However, this morning’s mass readings made me think that perhaps we are a bit like Herod the tetrarch who is anxious to hear/see Jesus ( and John the Baptist before that!)..........trying and hoping to ‘’get it’’ at each encounter but to what purpose or end if the getting it does not lead to the next step- that of action! We experience many of these ‘get it’ moments especially at retreats and days of recollection..........they are lovely, promising flower buds that – alas- remain still-born, never to fully bloom.......... whilst we remain where we are awaiting the next ‘’Solar Halo”? It would seem that it is not so much how often we ‘’get it’’ but rather how honest we are with ourselves to want to work towards a change for the better (or using a much over-used word - transformation) once we have ‘got it’.......that should be the focus of our attention.

    If we do not take the first step we would always remain saints-in-waiting and saints-a-wanting and blame our plight on our flawed human nature...........thus fulfilling the prophecy of today’s first reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes – ‘’Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it......?’’

    God bless you, Fr.

  2. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, Father. With love from Malaysia.