I found these astonishing words because they explain how we are part of a reality that is much greater than we are but at the same time we each have our own individuality, enabling us to contribute to that great reality. The ancient Greeks puzzled over the question of the ‘one and the many’. In what sense are we just ‘one of the masses’, a brick in a wall indistinguishable from any other brick? And in what sense are we unique with our own indispensable contribution so that if we are not there the wall is incomplete?
I am always amazed by the gospel stories. Jesus is never impressed by numbers – even when there were so many they were ‘trampling on one another’ (Lk 12:1). The overwhelming impression is of relating to one person at a time; Peter, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus. It is the same when we come to the resurrection stories. Again it is Mary at the tomb. Or the two going to Emmaus or Thomas. It is an essential of the Christian message that each person is unique to God and that he loves each person individually and eternally.
At the same time the witness of the mystics is that the more a person comes close to God they more they feel the draw to be ‘dissolved’ into the divine. They leave to one side, for example, the desire of what Claire Gilbert, in a recent issue of the Tablet calls, ‘pride in achievement.’ In other words, they leave behind any desire to be known or celebrated for ‘what I have done.’ They loathe the idea of drawing attention to themselves. They come into this world, make their contribution and go – a bit like Anna in the temple (Lk 2:36). No fuss, no fame.
Such people, as Richter and Anna, point the way to the beautiful harmony that must exist between the one and many. The one is for the many and the many are for the one. If we could live this balance, what a beautiful world we would have! It would be heaven.
23 April 2023 Easter 3A Acts 2:22-33 1 Pet 1:17-21 Lk 24:13-35Post published in: Faith