“Where there is no knowledge of the soul, there is no good: and he that is hasty with his feet shall stumble.” Proverbs 19:2
As your proto-typical lay mystagogue, I often spend a good twenty-to-thirty seconds pondering the deep mysteries of the faith. One that has gripped me the last several weeks is my soul. My soul, which is supposed to magnify the infinite God. My soul, all of which is supposed to love God. My soul, which said, “The Lord is my portion. Therefore I will wait for Him.” So much that we do as Christian faithful is for the soul, this thing that makes us living, immortal, and in the image of God. Yet, I don’t know my soul. I know my big hammer-toe, the odd dimple in my forehead, and my compulsion to eat cold hotdogs with ketchup right before retiring to sleep. My soul, I must confess, I know only what I’ve been told, and that, unfortunately, hasn’t been much.
Knowing what’s good for the soul yet not recognizing the soul itself is where I find myself. If only this wonderful gift from God would show up in some way. Maybe then I could work harder for it. Then I could see the damage I do when I sin. Maybe then I could see the good that I do when I fast. As a sinful, self-centered guy, I crave confirmations. I want to be holy, just so long as it doesn’t get in the way of my own pleasure. But maybe if I could see my soul in the mirror, or feel my soul in the nerves, or in some other way sense the soul, I could sacrifice. I could measure progress with my senses, then I could recognize the benefit for myself and thus have a strengthened will to do what is right.
Now I know what you’re thinking after reading this (all three of you who read the blog) – “You’d be a whole lot better off if you started thinking about something other than yourself. Like, maybe, hmmm, I don’t know… God?” And you are absolutely right to think that. That is my problem. That’s the core of my problem. And I’m really good for those 20-30 seconds thinking about other people; my family, my friends, suffering children, things like that. But it always seems to come back to me eventually. I have trouble concentrating, which is why my blog posts tend to ramble.
Now, back to the soul. As the proverb says, where there is no knowledge of the soul, there is no good. To state the obvious, that’s not good. So what’s my problem? Why can’t I connect to this spiritual gift that is an integral component of me? Tonight I was out watching the kids as the sun was setting, reading a few pages from Pope Benedict’s book, written under the pseudonym Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith. He gives me a clue to this problem. Actually, he strips me naked:
Psychologists tell us that our rational, everyday consciousness is only the surface of what makes up the totality of our soul. But we are so hounded by this surface awareness that what lies in the depths can no longer find expression. Ultimately man becomes sick for sheer lack of authenticity; he no longer lives as a subject: he exists as the plaything of chance and superficiality. This is connected with our relationship to time. Our relationship to time is marked by forgetting. We live for the moment. We actually want to forget, for we do not want to face old age and death. But in reality this desire for oblivion is a lie: suddenly it changes into the aggressive demand for the future, as a way of destroying time. However, this romanticism of the future, this refusal to submit to time, is also a lie, a lie which destroys both man and the world. The only way to master time, in fact, is the way of forgiveness and thankfulness whereby we receive time as a gift and, in a spirit of gratitude, transform it.
All three of you reading this blog – please pray for me that I might find my soul. I’d like to find it before the day comes that my soul is all I have. I think the more I know my soul, the more pleasant that day will be.
Happy Birthday Papa. You are truly God’s gift to the Church in our age.
Bless the Lord, all his works: in every place of his dominion, O my soul, bless thou the Lord. Psalm 103:22