Friday, October 26, 2018

Pages from the Past: Aiming for First Place

In 2014-2015 I read quite a few books by James Alison, a kind of "translator" of Rene Girard's insights. I found both men's books very helpful in terms of the light they shed on the "innermost secrets" of our hearts in our untamed and unquestioned desires. That's what is behind this reflection.

James and John in today’s Gospel invite me to continue to reflect on Alison’s insights about desire. Jesus “suggests” to them His own desire: “to serve and to give his life.” He suggests to them his desire to drink the cup the Father has prepared, and stirs up their desire, “We can drink it!” Ultimately, isn’t he sparking in them an ardent desire for communion with him in his dispositions and his “fate”?

“Do not fear”: fear is the opposite of desire. So “do not fear” means “desire rightly.” Desire what is fully worth of desire—“I am with you.” Jesus says: Desire that communion with Me that I desire for you.

Thinking of Joseph in the carpentry shop with Jesus. Joseph, modeling the desires of the just man to the just One. There was no fear in that shop, no hint of a threat;  none of that sneaking discomfort of being weighed on arbitrary scales and found wanting. Joseph was not threatened by Jesus’ divinity, so perfectly expressed in his boyish humanity, open to learn and receive and be formed. What an honor, what a credit to Joseph, to be entrusted with modeling human desires for Jesus!

What about the sacrament of the present moment? How might that fit into this model? Precisely it means not desiring other than what is. How, though, is this kind of peaceful desire acquired?

James and John’s request clearly seems to be from desiring according to the mode of this fallen world. They bid for first places in the Kingdom. Maybe the step forward is that they asked openly. (“Ask and you shall receive,” Jesus had said.) 

Rather than let them scheme for possession through grasping, Jesus aims to correct their desires: He offers them a new (and very different) picture of what it means to be in the first place in the kingdom…will they still desire it? Yes! Because Jesus, whom they love, is manifesting it as his own motivation: not an outward rule, but demonstrating the way his own desires are turned so that they can "catch" the desire from him.

"Pages from the Past" are randomish excerpts from my old journals. I process things in writing, so there were a lot of volumes, but here and there I found notes that were still pertinent or helpful. I got rid of the books (hello, shredder!) and typed up the things I wanted to save, whether for myself (mostly) or to share. 

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