Monday, December 24, 2018

Our outgoing God, and the treasure that finds the hunter.

In November 2015, a sunken ship was found off the coast of Colombia.  This was no ordinary sunken ship.  It was the remains of a Spanish galleon named the San Jose, and she was lost in a sea battle against the English back in 1708.  It was said to have been carrying a huge amount of precious metals like gold and silver, along with gems like Emeralds from Peru.  It was on its way to Europe to fund Spain’s war against the British when it was sunk in the waters off Cartagena, South America.  It had been lying in the depths of the sea for almost 300 years and its treasure is reportedly worth around $22 billion in today’s value.  

Many treasure hunters had been looking with much dedication and enthusiasm for the San Jose, with the hope of getting their hands on this treasure, but to no avail.  Treasure hunters do that.  It’s their job, and it is in their best interests to be always looking, always searching.

I mention this as a way of introduction to this week’s reflection, because I think many of us miss the point of our salvation, and by a large margin, if we do not begin to appreciate anew and with fresh minds that there is something so striking and so breathtaking about our faith.  

To be sure, there are many Christians who may be baptized in the faith, but who are not being seized by it. A first and very important step in appreciating the richness of our salvation is that we understand what repentance is.  True, it is not an elegant word by any stretch of the imagination.  Moreover, if repentance is seen mainly drawing up a list of sins and transgressions that we are sorry for in life, it is far too simplistic and one-dimensional.  Behavioral changes alone do not make on a Christian.  There are so many people in the world who are ethical and moral but do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Repentance, therefore, has to mean much more.

Repentance is when we recognize that our main sin, and the sin underlying the rest of our other sins, is our self-salvation project.  That we think that by living a good life, a moral life, a holy life that we earnour place in heaven, is intrinsically erroneous in itself.  We do not, and none of us does.  There are so many people who try to prove their worth through moral goodness or through achievement, or through their family or their career.  I have also seen that there are also people who are heavily involved in church and religion and still have a great need to repent because of the ways that they have put God and their brothers and sisters in their debt! By our attitudes, some of us have unknowingly lorded it over our fellow Catholics.

But when our repentance consists in seeing that all along we have been relying on our own hopes, our own significance, our own security and our own efforts to stabilize our lives, we would have struck gold.  

We call this folly of ours out when we appreciate anew just how God has made his presence known in our world and in our lives.  We may think that it is so great that we have taken that step to look for God in life, and that as adults, we may have made that turnaround in life and sought him out in the RCIA process (or some other conversion journey) and left our former ways of godless living.  But the truth is just the opposite.  It is not we who have found him.  Hehas found us.  And the scriptures tell us over and over again, in so many ways, and in such colourful stories, how this God of ours is in a relentless search for us.

The story of the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth is a metaphor with this search that is compelling. With God at her very centre - in her womb, Mary goes out of her safe abode and comfort, into the hill country of Judah, to tend to her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth.  She thinks nothing of her own safety and her personal needs. Just how does Mary do this?  Only when she is fully aware that God is doing something in her.  She decidedly put aside her own ego and intellect, but instead responded to a prompting that came from within her.  When the two women finally meet, Elizabeth attributes Mary’s greatness not to Mary, but to whom she was a container of - God himself.  When goodness meets goodness in the most holy and agenda-free way, it is God alone who gets the glory.  

Because God through Salvation history has shown that he is not an idle god, not a lackadaisical God, but an active and truly outgoing God; a searching God; then those who truly have him in their hearts cannot but be outgoing themselves, giving of themselves in many ways.  And this only happens when we see how God is our ultimate treasure.  

Herein lies the link with my introduction of this blog with the discovery of the sunken San Jose galleon.  Treasure hunters go out and seek treasure.  But the wonder and astonishing truth of Christianity is that the treasure goes out in search of the hunter.  No other religion has it this good and this amazing. 

Advent celebrates and reminds us of this, because at Christmas, we live out this truth in its splendor and glory. And when God truly finds us, when we realise this and repent of our many ego trips, we will realise how valued we are in God’s eyes.  That treasure that lies at the bottom of the Columbian coast in the sunken San Jose is reportedly worth $22 billion.  To God, each of us is worth an infinite number of San Jose Galleons.    A blessed Christmas to you, dear reader.

1 comment:

  1. This Christmas I decided to help distribute invitations to the church carnival. I had wondered why it was not done through the post office. As I drop the invitation, one by one, into the mail boxes, I suddenly realised that God was giving me a part to play, to announce the location of the treasure to the hunters.

    Wishing you a blessed Christmas,
    Mary Bernadette