Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Persistent 'Perhaps'

The penetrating ‘perhaps’ which belief whispers in man’s ear in every place and in very age does not point to any uncertainty within the realm of practical knowledge; it simply queries the absoluteness of this realm and relativizes it, reminding man that it is only one plane of human existence and of existence in general, a plane that can only have the character of something less than final… there are two basic forms of human attitude or reaction to reality, one of which cannot be traced back to the other because both operate on completely different planes.
Introduction to Christianity, 40

Reflection – What a lovely phrase it is: the ‘penetrating perhaps of belief.’ We live, always, in a world of certainties: the various facts of science, geography, history, and the practical know-how one accumulates one the path through life. As one progresses in life, these certainties pile up: we know how things work, we know the way the world goes. And these certainties can become a prison surrounding us if we’re not careful. We are so sure of the way things are that there is little room in our lives for surprise, for delight, for something new and different to happen. The jaded cynic (and we all stand in danger of becoming that terrible creature) lives in a cramped prison cell of his own making.
So faith comes to us in this with its penetrating ‘perhaps’. Maybe, just maybe, there’s another reality beyond, above, around the ‘way things are’. There is something, or rather Someone, who holds all our known realities in being, and Who is ever-new, ever-young, ever-free in His holding.
The way things are is relative, then, in the light of faith. The way of the world, the unshakeable certainties about life and its operations is always being broken into by that Other reality, which is the grace of God. ‘Expect a miracle’, Catherine Doherty loved to say. Expect things to not be ‘the way they are’. It is faith that there is Something Else which opens us up to this perpetual freedom, this hope that God’s mercy and love can (perhaps) make things so much better.

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