Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Frailty and Transcendence

What does it mean to be obedient to the will of God? We have a tendency to exaggerate what we mean by the word 'obedience' and compare it to the obedience shown by the Blessed Mother when approached by the Archangel Gabriel. The columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times discusses what the word means to him.

Most of the time we obey, he says, when we believe nothing will be lost by doing so or when it is profitable to us. It can be obedience to impress another, or to see ourselves as a good person, or to surrender one's will to a greater authority. However, it need not  be seen as a tremendous and difficult act. When God  made us, he put the seeds of obedience in us, and we are to let them grow and harvest them. There are times that we irresistibly obey the natural events we encounter in our lives by responding to these natural stimuli appropriately. When it is cold, we either put on more clothes or go where it's warmer; when we are sick, we go to the doctor. We are, in a sense, programed to obey the laws of nature. This is living in agreement with the will of God.

When we acknowledge our human frailty, we can choose to bow our heads and walk the way of the virtues. This is the first step on the path of virtue. The columnist mentions his time in the States where he met a man who became successful as a farmer in Korea. He was in the States for a cancer operation that he hoped would be more successful than the one he had in Korea. It was not, and he died soon after, having spend all his money on the operation. Making money was no longer  important, he was now called to surrender to the situation in which he found himself.


Our schooling and place of work, the columnist says, are not of primary importance.The person that I am, with all my frailties, and my attempts to understand the life I have are important. Jesus came to us living as a beggar. What is important is to have a  correct focus on life.

We have two pillars on which all is based, he says: our frailty and the transcendence of life. We have to bow before natural disasters, but at the same time there are many rewarding possibilities we can explore to expand our life experiences. They allow me, he says, to look over my weaknesses at the same time that I see  possibilities opening to me, and to work to realize them. To understand both my weaknesses and my transcendence is better than being first in what I do, he says. If the first button (of a buttoned jacket) is not in the right place, our future actions will not go smoothly.

He gives us the example of a famous Japanese entrepreneur who when evaluated from a   purely human perspective lacked what it takes to succeed in the business world: without even a grammar school education, having a frail body, and brought up poor, he succeeded because, as he said often, these weaknesses were his gifts.  Because he was poor, he worked hard to overcome poverty. Because he lacked an education, he was always trying to learn from others. And because of his bodily weakness, he took care of his health. The key to his success was knowing his weaknesses and working hard to achieve the potential that lay hidden in those weaknesses.

Many have hit bottom but realizing their weakness have been opened to the will of God. This does not mean, the columnist is quick to say, to become small and give up. It does mean that because a person knows his limits, he continues to pursue with even more energy a desire to study, to understand and, without embarrassment, to keep asking for answers. It is because of this that he will receive energy from God and others to keep on his quest. That would be putting the first button in the right place.

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