Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Risk and Friendship

I've been thinking a bit lately about how making a step toward friendship with someone or even *being* friends with someone makes you vulnerable in many ways and can, at times be a frightening thing. Or at least something where fear can get in the way and prevent you from making that step. My mind, at least, tries to put these road blocks in my way - "Ugh. Maybe they'll think I'm stupid or presumptuous. Maybe I shouldn't say anything at all." Friendship does sometimes cause extremely painful misunderstandings. There's a significant risk there, especially to someone who is sensitive about such things as relationships.

Of course the rewards of friendship are much greater and entirely "worth it", but not everyone can make it past that first big hurdle and I know, for me, that first hurdle can be very difficult. There is also a significant sense of relief when my offer of friendship is accepted by the other.

Discussions on the Internet can be like that too. If I really share my opinion, which may not be fully formed, will I sound stupid? will some people misunderstand me or dislike me?

There's a certain degree to which the practice of humility is necessary in making such steps (at least in an act against pride which is uncomfortable with vulnerability). It also reminds me of the charity and openness and understanding I should have to others .

So I was interested to understand in a new way, in a portion of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, how God models for us a participation in such risks. God came down and made Himself vulnerable to us. Wow!

This is from the Holy Father's commentary on the Our Father, in the segment entitled "Hallowed Be Thy Name". I'll try to summarize here along with a few choice quotes:

First, he brings up the obvious connection of "Hallowed be thy Name" with "Thou shalt not speak the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

This leads to a detailed discussion of God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush.

In one sense God doesn't give himself a name "among other gods" as if he's one of many.
God's answer to Moses is thus at once a refusal and a pledge. He says of himself simply, "I am who I am" - he is without any qualification. This pledge is a name and a non-name at one and the same time.
He also points out that God didn't actually refuse Moses' request. He gave him something very significant which establishes a relationship with mankind.

God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him. Yet this means that in some sense he hands himself over to our human world. He has made himself accessible and, therefore, vulnerable as well. He assumes the risk of relationship, of communion, with us.

The process that was brought to completion in the Incarnation had begun with the giving of the divine name.... God has now truly made himself accessible in his incarnate Son. He has become a part of our world: he has, as it were, put himself into our hands.

This enables us to understand what the petition for the sanctification of the divine name means. The name of God can now be misused and so God himself can be sullied. The name of God can be co-opted for our purposes and so the image of God can also be distorted. The more he gives himself into our hands, the more we can obscure his light; the closer he is, the more our misuse can disfigure him. Martin Buber once said that when we consider all the ways in which God's name has been so shamefully misused, we almost despair of uttering it ourselves. But to keep it silent would be an outright refusal of the love with which God comes to us. Buber says that our only recourse is to try as reverently as possible to pick up and purify the polluted fragments of the divine name. But there is no way we can do that alone. All we can do is plead with him not to allow the light of his name to be destroyed in the world.

And so God is our true model for friendship and charity (and much more!). He comes to us in love despite fallen man's tendency to manhandling. I love the beautiful commentary on God's name too!


Margaret Mary Myers said...

I like the way you drew us in with your own thoughts, and then pointed out the thoughts of the Pope in his book about Jesus. It was a nice way to interest us.

Good writing. And I wish for you beautiful friendships in life.

Karen E. said...

What a lovely post, Alicia.