Thursday, January 12, 2012

Transference, Barney, and Rebellion: Things to avoid in following God's will

The readings for this week have been so wonderfully apropos for this week where we as a Church remember vocations and pray for them during Vocations Awareness Week. Hopefully this isn't news to you.  The first reading are from I Samuel, with yesterday's being the call of Samuel.  This reading happens to be the 1st reading for this weekend.  While the young Samuel is mistaking the call of God for the voice of the priest, Eli, finally Eli understands that God is calling the boy and tells Samuel to respond with "speak, Lord, you servant is listening."  What a bold statement!  This statement is supposed to be at the heart of every Christian every day.  The responsorial psalm for that day (and coincidentally this weekend as well) has the response of "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will."  Again, another simple statement that should be at the center of how we live. Were every Catholic to really capture this, all of the problems we experience within the Church would simply dry up.  Vocation crisis? Gone!  Scandals within the Church?  Never would have happened?  Numbers of practicing Catholics dwindling?  Not any more? I could go on and on with this list, the upshot is that if we were to live out these two simple sentences, there would profound change and great good.  So why isn't it happening?

My first guess is a what I would call a simple case of transference.  We become suspect when we hear that we are called to do God's will.  We transfer onto God what He means by that with what we mean by that.  We know that our wills can be awful self-centered.  We know that we can want other people to do our will because it suits us to have them to do so.  In this light, God comes across as a eternal me-monkey  with a colossal ego that needs to be stroked lest He go all Rambo on you.  We assume that God is every bit as self-centered as humanity and bristle at the idea of having to serve such a megalomaniac!   However, God is not such.  Instead of being self-centered, He is other centered, that is, he loves us and wants what is best for us now and for all eternity.  He watches out for us and want to protect us.  When He asks us to do His will, He asks us to be other-centered (that is to be truly loving) as He is and thus to watch out for the true good around us. 

My second guess would be what I call the "Barney Syndrome".  In this scenario we accept that God loves us.  We even believe that God unconditionally loves us and wants what is best.  Where the breakdown starts is that in believing these things we fail to make the jump that we are called to model out behavior on His.  God becomes the Great Enabler.  Instead of "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will", the response becomes "Turn the other way God, I want to do my will!"  God's job is to rubber stamp whatever I want to do.  Furthermore He is suppose to bless it as if I were doing His will!  This God doesn't have a hell because everybody gets into heaven, unless, like, you know, you're like Adolf Hitler and stuff.  The morality bar is set as low as needed to accommodate whatever it is I want to do.  The problem here is that if we enter into a relationship with God, a relationship necessary for heaven, then the love goes both ways. As with a good marriage where the two spouses are actively concerned with the other person's needs , our relationship with God is bound on our looking out for God's will (which as above said, looks out for our good) as He looks out for what we need.  God blesses this.  God, however, is not one to taunted, ignored, or dismissed.  He is not the great enabler.  He allows us to make our choice about whose will we follow and then bear out the consequences of those choices.

My third guess is outright rebellion. In the story of Samuel, Samuel is given to the High Priest, Eli, because Samuel is called to serve the Lord.  Eli has to sons who are priests as well: Phineas and Hophni.  They were self-centered men who has the audacity to steal from God what was His during the sacrifices.  Not only were they indifferent to God, they were outright hostile.  Their response to God wasn't "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will" it was "Go away God, I am going to do my will." Phineas and Hophni push away the hand of God because they have no desire for a relationship with God, especially a relationship that will require them to change.  Without God's hand, they are destroyed.  This story is repeated over and over again.  God does not want such things to happen, but He allows the consequences of our choices to happen if we are insistent upon it.  On a slightly separate note: why we think as Americans, that we can push God out of the public sphere, routinely mock Him and those in relationship with Him, replace Him with materialism,  lust for power, hedonism, and materialism, how we can surgically excise from any avenue of our school children's life, mock His existence,  pile corpse upon corpse with our violence, abortion, and disregard for the basic needs of other and then have the audacity to demand that His only job, if He exists at all, is to make happy and bless whatever it is I want...just baffles me!

The point is that we are called to rise above transference,  Barney, and rebellion and follow God in our lives knowing that His will is always oriented towards our collective best interest.  There is no reason to be afraid.  If we want the vocations we collectively need, it will be in having the faith to say "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will."  If we want true peace in our parishes and to be free from scandals of all sort, then again, we will have to conform our will to God's.  If we want true unity and peace in our country, it will come from living, actually living, the Gospel which calls us for defer to each other in imitation of Christ.  If we want strong marriages and family life, then it will only be through this mutual submission of will for the good of others.  God is not a rubber stamp to approve of a life divorced from His will, nor is he a giant purple doofus who enables reckless and selfish behavior, nor is He one who is to mocked.  He wants what is truly good for us and leads us to peace.  We have to want that to!  How will you, the reader, live up to "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will" today?  How will your life reflect that?

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