8. March 2020

D is for Discovery

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‘…Why could we not drive it out…?’ (Mark 9, 28)

As we continue our Lenten journey inviting one another to take a serious look at ourselves; last week thinking about just what it is that defines us as Christians? Jesus’ guided self-appraisal of us all – ‘Who do you say I am? & ‘Do you love Me more than these? – today we invite each other to embark on a voyage of self-discovery. But we start in an unlikely place: an honest voyage of self-discovery should cause us to discover our own limitations. The disciples couldn’t wait for Jesus to return from the Mount of Transfiguration. They had been asked to heal a child and had sought to do so but they could not. Sometimes, a voyage of discovery ends with us realising that we are, after all, only human, and that there always be that which is beyond us – not that it is not there – just that it remains beyond our discovering of it. There is a boundary line that exists…It may shift from generation to generation, but it exists, nevertheless.

“Every time you understand something, religion becomes less likely. Only with the discovery of the double helix and the ensuing genetic revolution have we had grounds for thinking that the powers held traditionally to be the exclusive property of the gods might one day be ours...”  (James D. Watson).

There is something deeply ironic about a view such as,

“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.” (Bertrand Russell).

If we limit ourselves to discovering just that which is there to be ‘found out’, we will prove to be excellent scientists and we should not disparage science, especially at a time like this when many scientists are dedicated to ‘finding out’ the vaccine that eventually will be able to be used against coronavirus. But self-discovery is more than just ‘finding out’ – the pursuit of knowledge and its application - it is as much to do with ‘belief’; discovering that which has already been revealed to us but to which hitherto we have failed to appreciate about ourselves. When Jesus, during the debrief He held with the disciples, told them that what had been asked for could only be ‘driven out by prayer’, He was in effect saying to them that there is wholly distinctive dimension to engage with, and before they could ever imagine themselves able to be and do as Jesus was and did, they need to explore within and beyond themselves just what that might be…

“In the end, we do not so much reclaim what we have lost as discover a significantly new self in and through the process. Until we are led to the limits of our present game plan and find it insufficient, we will not search out or find the real source, the deep well, or the constantly flowing stream.” (Richard Rohr).

What might this mean for us, this voyage of self-discovery? Well it might cause us to fine-tune our political antennae, it might even  more vigorously stir up within us our social conscience, it might serve to re-orientate our moral compass, it might heighten our spiritual awareness, it might widen our horizon and deepen our perceptiveness, it might make us realise that we have to learn to be loved – by God, by others, and by ourselves – and that we have to be taught to love – to love God, to love others and to love ourselves. This voyage of self-discovery will make us self-aware, but only insofar as to appreciate that the self of which we speak can never be expressed in terms of selfish desire, but only in terms of selfless commitment. The challenge of faith is to be prepared to go beyond our self in order to discover our self. God comes to the world, to each one of us, and in Jesus reveals what it means to be ‘truly human’, my ‘true’ self is discoverable only when we are prepared to see our self in Jesus. As we allow this ‘truth’ to dawn on us, all of a sudden we begin to make sense of Paul’s otherwise enigmatic conclusion to the so-called ‘hymn to love’ – 1 Corinthians 13 - ‘At present we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we shall see face to face. My knowledge now is partial; then it will be whole, like God’s knowledge of me. There are three things that last for ever: faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.’