Day 25: Freedom and Self-Knowledge (From a Man's Perspective)
‘If we do not see our own darkness, we cannot know the love and light of divine goodness.’ St. Catherine of Siena
Annette often sees my blindness better than I do. She bumps up against her spouse’s striving and denial of the strain; she can at times detect my divided heart before I do. I am humbled by another helping me to see what I cannot. And I am responsible for learning through it, to internalize self-knowledge that has come from without.
We discover ourselves in fits and starts. Of course, aspects of our humanity we know well; other parts elude us and surface unexpectedly. In a flash we discover a virtue newly realized! Or a dark streak of contempt or lust, as rotten as murder and adultery.
Pope St. John Paul II marvels at our uniquely human capacity for self-awareness. We are the only living creatures who can know ourselves and reflect on what we know! Karol Wojtyla mused on ‘the drama of good and evil enacted on the interior stage of the human person’ (‘At the Center of the Human Drama’, p. 75). That drama unfolds socially, as our fellow humanity mirrors to us how we are, and spiritually, in communion with God who reveals decisively who we are.
St. Catherine refers to the ‘gentle mirror’ of Jesus who reveals the dignity of our human nature as well as its faults and failures. As Creator/Redeemer, this Jesus has unique authority to name us. For example, His still small voice, in accord with Scripture, cancelled out my ‘gay’ identification and confirmed me as a robust man at every turn in my pilgrimage. He also did not hesitate to reveal prideful self-service. Instead of consoling me in deflation, He waited as I came down to size.
We need trustworthy fellows who tell us the truth. We do not know how we impact others. Unless they tell us their truth. Then we’ve the blessed, bloody invitation to grow in strength and sensitivity to the needs of others.
I have been floored by loving mirrors who help me see my distorted form. Then I can wrestle down the difference between an opinion and a truth and go with the result into the fire of Jesus’ love. He uses even skewed mirrors to reveal dross. Then I can be winnowed more thoroughly into the form pleasing to Him.
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’