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Selfishness and the pull of redemption

December 30, 2010

Earlier in the week I made a post about “The Big Silence” reality TV show by the BBC. I watched that show and “The Monastery” and part of  “The Convent.” All of these shows had the same theme. A group of “ordinary” people volunteered to live in silence, prayer, and obedience for 40 days in a religious community. The thing about these ordinary people is that more than half in each show had no faith life, and most of those were suffering some kind of life trauma and were drawn to this spiritual experiment to try to make sense of their lives.

It saddens me to think that these days “ordinary” means no faith in God. But then those of us that do believe in God and try to practice our faith seriously are counter-cultural.

The shows were inspiring though, because most of the participants did benefit from living among the monks or nuns for an extended period of time. They began to understand themselves better, understand their failings and their selfishness. Did they all become sterling examples of humanity? No. But they were able to see what direction they need to focus on. The same direction as all of us.

Today’s meditation from Magnificat magazine fits this theme perfectly:

Long ago human nature received a severe check from the Fall; all the stately ordering of its several parts was disturbed by that dread catastrophe; the nice harmony and balance were disturbed. The springs of man’s beautiful nature were diverted to other ends than that of his real destiny, and the noble generosity of his nature was warped by the terrible disease of selfishness. Meanness, pettiness, the desire of his own personal satisfaction to the utter disregard of the convenience of others took possession of him and dominated his life. He no longer appeared as the lord, but as the pirate, of creation. The fine upright nature was gone, and in its place came a low-aiming instinct for pleasure and preservation.

Yet all the while, the older ideals remained beneath the new and distressing selfishness. From time to time, he felt that he was made for better things, felt the movement to a better life, felt uplifted by emotions that rather puzzled him by their greatness…

This is the very purpose of Christ. Of all the instructive yearnings that paganism and even Judaism could not satisfy, Christ gave a definite approval and a finer example. He was the desired of nations, the figure of the substance of God, the exact reproduction of the ideal that, through all the centuries, had been ill-expressed and largely unconscious at the back of the human heart. Man had waited and tarried for the morning, and now the day was breaking. He found set before him the perfect figure of a man — gentleness, self-sacrifice, hatred of hypocrisy and cant, sympathy with the frailties of human nature, and the fierce love of justice, truth, and innocence. Suddenly he discovered that the wonderful  word, which his mind had vaguely formed for itself as the ideal of human nature, was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.

Father Jarrett (+ 1934) was a Dominican priest from England renowned for his preaching, his lectures, and his many books on theology and spirituality.

Excerpt from Classic Catholic Meditations (c) 2004, Sophia Institute Press, 1-800-888-9344.

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