How God Works
by Lucinda M. Vardey
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus explains that the grace of God usually works in paradox. One of these is turning around the emphasis of external desires, positioning, privilege, and being honoured by others. Jesus’ way leads not so much to an egoless state of being (the sort of humility that takes years of purification to achieve) but to an awareness. We need to be aware of what we think or do that separates us from him.
The ego operates in a realm of self-emphasis, self-survival and self-protection. While a strong ego is never too much of a problem, the insidiousness of a fragile ego that longs for others’ applause and recognition to boost its own false sense of worth, causes havoc with our souls.
If we consider the examples of some of our great saints, especially martyrs, we begin to see what we need to do to gain an intimate relationship with Jesus beyond ourselves. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a brilliant philosopher and Carmelite nun who lost her life at Auschwitz in 1942, leaves us some wisdom of how humility and exaltation work. In her book, Finite and Infinite Being, she writes that the human task is to “progress from self-recognition to self-formation.” She states that it is only from inhabiting our interior selves with self-reflection can “a life be properly lived.” Only by knowing ourselves in Jesus, Stein explains, can our egos be “held by something other than the external world.”
Through Jesus’ direction to his disciples to not only focus, but live, with one Father in heaven and he as our instructor, then we open ourselves to be transformed. After a while we will be able to more naturally trust that God indeed is working in us and around us, and will more fully reveal the joy and abundance that is our due when we find satisfaction in not being noticed, acknowledged and applauded.
Malachi 1.14-2.2, 8-10
1 Thessalonians 2.7-9, 13