Monday, May 17, 2021

Getting out of ourselves is the programme for every disciple of Christ.

One of what I would consider Bishop Robert Barron’s enlightened moments was when he coined the phrase “your life is not about you”.  This was many years ago, probably when he was the rector at the seminary in Mundelein, Chicago when he was still Fr Robert Barron.


I find that to be the spiritual life whittled down and reduced to its core, that I have myself referred to it when trying to help people to deal with personal issues, anxiety, failures, betrayals and various forms of suffering that life blindsides many of us.  After all, when you think about it, it is precisely when we make our lives about us, about how happy we think we deserve to be; about how easy our lives ought to be; about how charmed it should be, and that all forms of stresses and challenges to our definition of placidity and what shows up is the antithesis of these, our whole world is shaken. This often leaves us in a mess precisely because we have made our lives all about ourselves.


The zeitgeist that “my life is about me” is, however, something that is massively appealing.  It puts me on the highest pedestal and makes the world revolve around me, and every affirmation, approval and “like” that I get feeds the very fragile and needy ego that is born out of original sin.  As a counselor and sometimes spiritual director of souls, it is clear to me that the prevalence of the highly intoxicating self-referential and self-elevating culture that we are in has caused many to easily spiral into a meltdown when things do not go the way they plan.  Of course, the easiest scapegoat to be blamed is God whenever this happens, because God is erroneously believed to be the one who should make everything successful and easy, and so when difficulties surface in life as they are wont to do, God will be the first to be blamed and God is often the first to be jettisoned from one’s life.


If we know that the root of our problems in life lie in the fact that many of us have made ourselves the centre of the universe, wouldn’t it be just common sense that all it takes is a simple reversal of that mindset to give our paradigms that necessary shift that it requires, so that nothing will pull the rug out from under our feet?  If only it were that simple.


I think many of us actually do want it to be that simple – a simple re-wiring of a wrongly wired circuit.  But we’ve been so hardwired by the voices of the world to want to be at the centre of the universe that this change, for it to be effective, requires re-programming at our innermost core.  And that core is where God resides in each person’s heart.  What this requires is a conversion that needs to allow us to see the world from God’s perspective, where everything defers to God, and where everything is made to glorify God, and for God’s will to be done.  This kind of a radical (from the root, radix) change can only come about through the grace of God, and for us to humbly be led by the same grace.


Many would say that the first sin of humanity that was commited by the first human beings was that of pride.  This term, while correct, can become a cover-term for what is far more insidious, which is that they wanted to be gods themselves.  This sin has never quite left us, and is something that has been passed down in our very DNA as human beings prone to sin.  We all have this innate tendency to want to be gods ourselves, on our own terms, with the result of believing that our life is about us.  


It took God himself to become human in Jesus to show how crucial it is for us to put aside the self and the ego if we were to live fully human lives as God intended.  


Correct and healthy anthropology tells us that the human person is the summit and apogee of all of creation, and that we are God’s masterpiece and his work of art.  While this is true, sin has marred this beauty that we inherently ought to radiate from our inner core.  


It is the devil’s greatest desire that we live disfigured lives as we get mired in sin, and that our godly beauty never gets to be uncovered, and our true faces never be seen.  In making us wanting to make the world and lives all about ourselves, the Deceiver has twisted, inverted and abominated the initial beautiful plan of God. 


We need to appreciate that God does want us to be at the apex of his creation, where we end up glorifying God, but our making ourselves the centre of the universe has us believe that we can usurp the glory that is God’s and make it ours and taking it by force, like the way Eve reached out to take the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as if it were her right to do so.  


It is so subtle that many of us are blind to just how insidious it is. When Paul was struck blind by the light of Christ on his way to Damascus, we are told something interesting about his blindness – that he opened his eyes, but could not see.


This is many of us in the spiritual life.  We are often walking around with eyes open, but hardly see what needs to be seen.  As we await the coming of the Holy Spirit’s power at Pentecost this week, may our own blindnesses be given true sight so that we can make the necessary paradigm shifts that will enable us to live truly God-centered lives rather than making our lives about us.





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