Monday, November 16, 2009

Our shared insufficiency

I have come across a number of people who have shared with me that from time to time, the get swept by a wave of emotion that fills them with a feeling that they seem to be overwhelmed by life. And it’s not a case of being depressed, or “emo” as the youth of our time are wont to say. As I listen deeper into such ‘heart level’ sharings by these intuitive souls, it strikes me that what they are actually addressing is that there seems to be at the heart of so many people, a shared insufficiency.

What is this insufficiency? It can be summed up as “the recognition that I need another to make my world meaningful, and that I need to share in someone else’s lack”, or to use that famous line in the movie Jerry Maguire “to complete someone else”.

In our Catholic liturgy, this is lived out every time we gather in community to worship. No one celebrates the Eucharist alone. And it becomes apparent when we stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers, many of whom are unknown to us. The only thing we know is that we need to celebrate this life that we share, a life in Christ. On our own, we realize our insufficiency. But coming together, we complete one another.

That is one very strong reason why we need to come to celebrate together at least once a week. When we pull out from this celebration of life for no good reason, we are not only shortchanging ourselves, but we are also saying to the community “you can’t rely on my presence and prayers for you this week”.

It also gives us good reason to fully participate in each Eucharistic celebration. To sing with meaning, to be at one in our liturgical actions and gestures by kneeling together, standing together, and being in one spirit together. It reminds us that at least for one hour a week, we have to put aside ourselves, our fears, our inhibitions, our preferences, for someone else.

What we must realize is that as companions on life’s journey, we complete each other’s shared insufficiency. But our humanity exists on such a wide plane, that this connection cannot be something that is a “once and for all”. It needs a constant re-connection, and we need a constant reminder of our shared brokenness, and our shared ability to heal and restore. Thus the need for such weekly celebrations.

When we understand this intrinsic connection, our concern will no longer be to show up for Mass simply because the Church says so. It will be because I understand now my need to recognize my own insufficiency, and to be lifted from it. And I also recognize my brothers’ and sisters’ insufficiency too, and their need to be lifted from theirs. And perhaps, then we will begin to realize that it is with great wisdom that the Church said so.


  1. re yr para.."on our own, we realize our insufficiency. But coming together, we complete one another." I agree with the 1st half but not the 2nd.It is true that first, must come self-knowledge which creates an awareness of the said insufficiency. It is this that "pushes" one our relentless search for our missing 'half' or missing 'other' the hope of attaining fulfillment or perfection...a union.This has resulted in people like St.Augustine,John of the Cross,St Teresa Avila etc; spiritual stalwarts of the faith. For us today, if this "push" puts us in touch with our 'incompleteness' or leads to a shared consciousness of our insufficiency,we could be drawn or "pulled" into making of ourselves an honest, loving & caring community ie church - striving for wholeness & wholesomeness ....with Christ as the "cementing agent /gell" But the act of just coming together does not a 'completement' make least not interiorly.........

  2. Dear Fr Luke,

    Thank you for an inspiring way to look at the "depressed" situation ! A Blessing for the day !


  3. Dear Tessa

    Thank you very much for your insightful comments on my latest entry. I do agree with you that the end result could go either way. There is no guarantee that it will always turn out positive, but to not even try, just based on the thought or fear that it will go awry, is to begin with a negative end in mind. What saddens me is that as a presider at Mass, I often look out at a sea of blank faces who have no inkling as to the power that they actually have to begin to fill the void in one another. So, while the reality is that many come empty,many also leave the liturgy empty,when they could have been both filled and filler. We have such long way to go to appreciate all that God wants to give us.

    Fr Luke