Saint Thomas Aquinas said that God and the problem of evil is the most challenging problem to the existence of God. For Thomas, the solution is that God only permits evil, when he can bring some greater good out of it. God never causes evil, because God is all-good.
But it is true that we cannot always see the good that comes out of evil. Houselander echoes the challenge this brings. But she also speaks the truth concerning God, and how he is with us in the face of evil.
For we could think it best if God prevented all evil. But to do so would also prevent us from being made in God’s image and likeness, since we would not be free. So it is that God shows us his face in a small, humble way. “The beginning of recognition will consist in knowing what sort of thing to expect.”
The problem is that we do not really read or understand the entirety of the Gospel. Houselander describes what is difficult to accept. We do not accept equally all parts of the gospel.
“Unless we do read the Gospels honestly we cannot know what He is like, and who can seek for someone whom they would not recognise if they found him?” Fortunately for us, Houselander outlines ways in which we can see the Christ, ways we can carefully seek his presence in what we read in the Gospels.
The first clue is light. Light helps us to find our way in a dark room, it helps us to take in the beauty of creation, and it is the way we discover the Christ. This is because it is light that fills our mind and our soul. And that light is Christ.
But the light of Christ is not just about seeing, as important as that is. It is about heat and warmth it is about filling the empty recesses of our heart with the one thing it longs to receive and to give: love.
Jesus is the Way. And it is in this that we begin to understand even a little bit how awesome an event is the Incarnation. “For everywhere, in everyone, there is some moment or experience of his going on all through time. On earth he was little, joyful, afraid, sorrowful, tempted, loving, a failure, a king dash everything that we can be, except a Sinner; And even in sinners he is there in the tomb, lying dead, awaiting and desiring resurrection.”
And so it is. Jesus is not just a little bit human, or slightly like us in his humanity. He is all of our humanity, taking in all of human experience to sanctify all of human experience. “All the ages of Christ on earth must be continually manifest in men: infancy, babyhood, boyhood, adolescents, manhood; Also the life in the womb, the three days dead, the risen life, and the life in the Host. All his actions; His healing, pity, teaching, fasting, weeping, praying, giving.”
Of course none of us experience all of the human Christ in our lives. But Our Lady did. She experienced her son in all his humanness, with the pure heart and vision of total dedication to the will of God.
All around us we see The Way. All around us is the invitation to seek carefully the presence of Jesus. Of course there are those contemplatives who gaze on His face always. And He is in the saints, people often unrecognized in their life because holiness can be such an uncommon attribute these days.
But these ways are not always the most common for us. And yet we can see Christ as a child, “not only in actual children but in helpless people, in simple minded people, and in the many moments of simplicity that come to the sophisticated.”
Christ is in the dying, the poets, in those who are tempted, and “in those who are in mortal sin, He is in the tomb.” How beautiful the spiritual advice given by Houselander. “We should never come to a sinner without the reverence we would take to the Holy Sepulchre.”
We may think Christ does not know shame. And yet, “Christ is in Gethsemane and all those who are crushed by fear, by shame, by the sense of guilt, by the neurotic type of scruple, by the sensitive awareness of the tragedy of the world and of sin as its cause. He is present in all those who are afraid of the sacrifice asked of them and who seek help and sympathy and the prayers of others. The incidents of his life are reproduced over and over again in innumerable ways.”
Christ is present in the suffering, for when he fell under the Cross He was present to all who have fallen in their lives, by economic circumstances.
Consider how Christ can be seen more easily in our suffering. Remember when health care workers were heroes? If we have ourselves suffered, we can see still and more clearly see their constant heroism in their daily work. We can recognize in the migrant, the refugee, the homeless, the person of Christ stripped of His garments as they are often stripped of their dignity.
The humility of the Christ who is placed in our hands in the Host reminds us of all the places we might dismiss as it being possible that He is present. In fact, it is often in prisoners, the poor, the mentally ill and others on the margins that Christ is most readily seen. And often it is in our own brokenness, our own times on the margins that we discover the paradox of our lives. Our desire for the Christ is strongest when we cannot see Him.
Previous Commentaries on the Reed of God
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