Friday, September 25, 2020

September 25: The Glory of God, Infinite Loops, Love

A reflection on the goodness of God from Merton . . .

Perhaps they did not know they were waiting for all this. Perhaps they thought they had nothing better to occupy their minds than the wedding of Prince George and Princess Marina which had taken place the day before. Even I myself was more concerned with the thought of some people I was leaving than with the political atmosphere at that precise moment. And yet that atmosphere was something that would not allow itself to be altogether ignored. 

I had seen enough of the things, the acts and appetites, that were to justify and to bring down upon the world the tons of bombs that would someday begin to fall in millions. Did I know that my own sins were enough to have destroyed the whole of England and Germany? There has never yet been a bomb invented that is half so powerful as one mortal sin— and yet there is no positive power in sin, only negation, only annihilation: and perhaps that is why it is so destructive, it is a nothingness, and where it is, there is nothing left—a blank, a moral vacuum. 

It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us? Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace? 

We have only to open our eyes and look about us to see what our sins are doing to the world, and have done. But we cannot see. We are the ones to whom it is said by the prophets of God: “Hearing hear, and understand not; and see the vision, and know it not.”

There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world. 

There is not an act of kindness or generosity, not an act of sacrifice done, or a word of peace and gentleness spoken, not a child’s prayer uttered, that does not sing hymns to God before His throne, and in the eyes of men, and before their faces. 

How does it happen that in the thousands of generations of murderers since Cain, our dark bloodthirsty ancestor, that some of us can still be saints? The quietness and hiddenness and placidity of the truly good people in the world all proclaim the glory of God.

This passage is Merton in love with the evidences of God in the world.  Yes, his story is about to plunge into the horrors of World War II, with all the crimes humans committed against each other during that conflict.  Yet, through it all, Merton says, the subtle and hidden work of truly good people--unspoken saints doing what unspoken saints do--sings hosannas to the glory of God.  It's Merton in ecstasy over goodness.

It has been a very good day.  My son is happy, went to school.  He seems lighter than I've seen him in weeks, as if, were he not tethered to the ground by gravity, he would float skyward.  That, for me, is an example of what Merton is talking about:  God's grace in action.  Sure, he is being helped by guidance counselors and physicians and therapists and medications, but he is smiling and full of light.  That is what matters today.

Now, I am not being naive here.  I know that, tomorrow or tonight or in the next half hour, things could change.  That is the nature of mental health issues.  There aren't any magical cures.  However, there are times when, after a long period of darkness, there's a break in the clouds, and the sun shines through.  This is one of those times for me, and I will take all the sun that I can get.

Tomorrow will be my son's twelfth birthday.  We will celebrate it at my mother's house, with cupcakes and ice cream and singing loud enough to embarrass him until his thirteenth birthday.  And then, on Sunday, we will celebrate it again with some of my son's friends and more family at a socially distanced birthday party.  All the young people will be locked in an Escape Room while the adults watch on iPads.  Face masks will be the fashion of the day.

But, sometime this weekend, maybe tonight, I know I will do something that will cause my son to scream at me, "You are a SHITTY dad!"  And then he will storm off to his computer and disappear into some world where he'll chop the head off an ogre that looks like me.

Because that's what being a parent is all about.  Supporting your kids.  Doing everything you can to give your kids the best life possible.  Wanting your kids to be happy.  Then, when they want to do something stupid or unsafe, you have to use that dreaded word:  No.  And an entire lifetime of mediocre-to-good parenting is wiped out in an instant.  Sort of like the dinosaurs being snuffed out by a meteor.

And you start rebuilding.  It's an unending process.  An infinite loop.  When I was studying Computer Science as an undergrad, I got stuck in a lot of those.  My programming caused a lot of computers to crash.  Now, as a father, I'm trying to program my kids to do the right things, to grow up into good people.  Reflections of the glory of God in this world, as Merton would say.  But kids are a lot harder to program than computers.  They don't speak binary.  And they're wiring is a lot more unpredictable.

However, I do know where to start with my son and daughter.  I know the first line of their programming code.  And it's a line that's looped infinitely, from now until the day I pass from their lives.  It consists of one miraculous word, repeated over and over and over and over:  Love.

Saint Marty sees the glory of God every day in his kids.

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