The previous article, in the light of Mary’s life, highlighted the important truth that at times “the call within the call” would fly in the face of others’ expectations for us. In committing ourselves to follow through God’s inner voice calling us to journey an untrodden path and trusting in God we move beyond the stereotype images and expectations of others for us. Mary, by choosing to follow the will of God, went beyond the conventional and the well-established image of a young unmarried Jewish woman. It was indeed a risk taken by Mary but a risk that brought God into the world. How can a God centered risk go wrong?
Jesus, following the footsteps of his mother, refused to live up to the images and expectations of the expectant Messiah. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to enquire whether Jesus indeed was the promised one or were they to wait for another, Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they have seen and heard (Lk 7:19-24). Jesus’ methodology and pedagogy to actualize the Reign of God was through an inclusive Table Fellowship that offered God’s mercy and unconditional love. Jesus refused to play to the gallery but chose to remain true to himself. Jesus always had a choice: to go along with what the devil proposed to him to be, to be what others expected him to be but he chose to remain to be true to his identity: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3: 17).
Men and women following Jesus and Mary have answered ‘yes’ to God and remained true to what God wanted them to be even when it meant breaking away from the traditional and conventional images and expectations that others had for them. Just a few examples:
Pietro, the father of Francis of Assisi, tried to dissuade Francis from following his call. When all attempts failed, finally before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the clothes he had received from him. He just walked away.
When Thomas Aquinas, at the age of nineteen, decided to join the Dominicans, he was held prisoner for almost one year in the family castle at Monte San Giovanni where it was hoped that he would change his mind. Thomas eventually joined the Dominicans.
The assassination of Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest and a personal friend of Oscar Romero had a life changing influence on Romero. Later Romero would say, "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”
The priests whom I had mentioned in the previous article who have totally committed themselves to the poor have not abide by the images of being priests defined by others and yet they are priests after the heart of Christ. Isn’t this true across the board in other religious traditions too? Religious founders and thinkers by listening to their inner voice remained true to themselves and have been a force of change and influence in the lives of their followers.
Suddhodana, the father of Siddhartha, wanted the young prince to become a great emperor but Siddhartha chose the spiritual path and became a spiritual leader.
The family ofRamana Venkataramana begged him to return home but he stoodfirm in what he chose and became Ramana Maharishi.
J. Krishnamurthi was chosen by Annie Besant to assume spiritual leadership for The Order of the Star. But Krishnamurthi believed that Truth is a Pathless Land and so he dissolved the Order and pursued his spiritual journey to be true to what he believed he was called to do.
All this leads us to reflect on our own life.
The Image of God that I have
Knowledge of God passed onto us when we were young is necessary to form and hold onto an image of God. But as our spiritual life deepens, borrowed knowledge must give way to a personal and interiorized knowledge and image of God that results in communion with God. The tragedy in spiritual life is holding onto an image of God that has served its intended purpose for a particular stage in our spiritual life and yet not moving onto an image of God that calls for a personal response and communion. When Jesus ushered in the Reign of God he revealed God as Abba; an inclusive God of unconditional love and mercy. But peoples’ minds were blocked to Jesus’ image of God and could not accept what Jesus offered. How big is your God? Spacious, universal, loving, merciful, inclusive or a God whom I fear? Do I go around with the borrowed image of God or a God with whom I am in communion?
The Image about the Self
“Who Am I?” is one of the most fundamental questions for a spiritual seeker. It is in answering this question that we will discover the meaning, purpose, and the joy of life. From a believer’s perspective, the deepest truth, in the depth of their being, is that she/he is the image and likeness of God. Through a process of elimination I realize that “I am not this or that” and definitely not what others keep telling me who I am.
Yet, most of our precious life, if not, our entire life, is wasted by holding onto and living by the images that others have created for me. My life seems to be defined wrongly by others’ expectations of me. What a sad and a pathetic situation that is. All acquired images about me will vanish but only the image that I am the image of God will be permanent. You are not what others define you to be. You are not others’ expectations. YOU ARE THE IMAGE OF GOD. Hold onto that day in and day out. Think about it, become that, realize that, and just be that. Let your life, words, and actions flow from the truth that you are God’s image.
Let People Fulfill the Purpose of their Life
Everyone comes into the world with a unique mission (purpose) to be fulfilled. They have their own blueprint of life to be realized. Let us not determine and define their purpose for them, because they have their own definition. All that we can do is to create the necessary ambience and allow them to be themselves. This is all the more true with regard to children.
But as adults, especially parents, we not only create images for them but keep enforcing our own expectations on them. We constantly remind them: who they are, who they ought to become, and what our expectations for them is. We not only create images for them but unconsciously impose our own failed and unfulfilled dreams on them. They are not an extension of our dreams. They are not here to complete our unfulfilled dreams. They have their own. What we consider good for them may not be the best for them and may not even be their life’s purpose. And if they choose to tread their own path don’t we create a sense of emotional guilt that they have let us down. Khalil Gibran put it so aptly:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. …
Do not go to your grave with your music unsung even if there is no one to listen to it. God and the angels listen and will dance to your music.
To be continued .......
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!