Our Faulty Expectations

Martin Scorsese has a new movie in theaters, Silence. A few months ago, I bought the book on which the film is based (haven’t read it yet), and recently I’ve read a number of reviews.* Given all that, I have no plans to see the film, for it seems that Scorsese still doesn’t get it.

What doesn’t he get? The meaning of suffering, the idea of renouncing this world for a better one after death, who Jesus really is and what He tries to teach us.

Thanks to human nature, we homo sapiens work hard to be happy, or at least entertained, each and every waking moment. We generally have a problem with delayed gratification, think we have the right to do whatever we want, and love to tell others what they’re doing wrong. If you recall from a previous post, though, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. let us in on a secret: “The first lie that the world tells us is that it is a lasting city.” Recognizing the lie brings freedom and peace of heart.

This month’s Magnificat includes a meditation that fits in well here. Written by Sister Ruth Burrows, O.C.D., a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk, England, it goes like this:

God does not answer man’s expectations, the expectation of pride, of flesh and blood, not of the Spirit of God who wills all that is best for man. God does not do what man expects him to do, does not approach him in the form he wants, which at the deepest level means that God, far from boosting man and making him feel grand, does exactly the opposite.

The effect of God drawing close to us always means that what Isaiah said of the suffering servant becomes true for us. In a very deep way we have to sacrifice that which seems to make us man, what we think of as a beautiful spirituality, we have to be changed in a way that seems to make us less, not more human.

There is nothing here naturally attractive to man; rather, his instinct must be to turn away in revulsion. This, in practice, in hard reality, is what it means to embrace Jesus crucified, and, embracing him, embrace he who sent him and whose revelation he is.

Then, of course, there is Madeleine L’Engle, who—in yesterday’s Glimpse of Grace—helps me put things perspective:

We may be a global village, but instant communication often isolates us from each other rather than uniting us. When I am bombarded on the evening news with earthquake, flood, fire, it is too much for me. There is a mechanism, a safety valve, which cuts off our response to overexposure to suffering.

But when a high school student comes to me and cries because the two- and three-year-olds on her block are becoming addicted to hard drugs; when the gentle man who cleans the building in which the Cathedral library is located talks to me about his family in Guatemala, rejoicing because they are alive although their house has been destroyed by earthquake; when a goddaughter of mine in Luxembourg writes me about the hungry children of the immigrant Portuguese family with whom she is living, then in this particularity my heart burns within me, and I am more able to learn what it is that I can and ought to do, even if this seems, and is, inadequate.

But neither was Jesus adequate to the situation. He did not feed all the poor, only a few. He did not heal all the lepers, or give sight to all the blind, or drive out all the unclean spirits. Satan wanted him to do all this, but he didn’t.

That helps me. If I felt that I had to conquer all the ills of the world I’d likely sit back and do nothing at all. But if my job is feed one stranger, then the money I give to world relief will be dug down deeper from my pocket than it would if I felt I had to succeed in feeding the entire world.


*The reviews can be found at these links: http://www.thechristianreview.com/the-last-apostasy-of-martin-scorsese-a-movie-review/



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