Saturday, June 1, 2024

Easter Theophany, Part 2 of 3: Theodicy

    In my last post, I described part of a mystical experience that I had at Mass on Easter Sunday, exploring some questions of sacramental theology that it brought up. Today I am writing about what I saw earlier during the same Mass, and its underlying meaning for "theodicy"; that is, the problem of the existence of evil in a world created and governed by a God who is both all-good and all-powerful. 

    The background is the same as in the last post: the church was full of God, super-saturated with the luminous presence of God. Then I saw - in my mind's eye, not outwardly - small, dark, hard masses, about the size of a fist, scattered throughout the nave, in among the congregation. I thought, it's people's resistances, their closed places, their acute wounds, or anger, or whatever temptation they hold onto. But their presence did not detract from the fullness of the presence of God. Nothing could have diminished or opposed that overwhelming Presence! 

    It set me to thinking about this question of the relationship between sin and God. What I wrote in my journal that evening is that "as God is the Ground of all Being, He is the ground of darkness as much as of light, of suffering as much as of joy, of death and destruction as much as of life and creation. He is the Ground of our fallen and falling natures, not only the gracious good moments. Those dark hard spaces, also, are in the hand of God." 

    I'm finding this one really hard to write! I have no arguments, not even the vocabulary to express my deep conviction that despite all the suffering in the world, there is a level at which it all makes sense and is all resolved in the goodness of God. And believe me, I'm not na├»ve about sin and the damage it does! I'm a survivor, with PTSD. And from a young age I've had close friends and lovers who have survived all kinds of child abuse, partner abuse, rape, not to mention war, imprisonment and torture, death threats and exile. How can I sit here and tell you that "it's all in God's plan?" If you're living with the aftermath of other people's sins, or in the life wreckage of your own sins, you might be finding this whole topic highly offensive.

    But it's my experience. For me, what I call these "mystical" experiences carry total conviction. I am much more sure of them than I am of anything I can read on paper, anything handed down by official Church teaching. But these "visions" (or whatever form they take), I believe in them implicitly (and I have a very competent spiritual director who thinks they are good). But that doesn't mean that they will mean anything to anyone else! So what else can I say to convey my profound sense that the God of Love is infinitely greater than all the evil and suffering in the world?

    I can't justify my belief. And it was not born on this past Easter morning. It started with the very first "parting-of-the-veil" I ever experienced, at age 18 and still an atheist, at the lowest point of my PTSD, when a friend of mine died (drunk). I don't remember what I saw or heard or felt at all, all I remember is the message I had from him: that he was well; and that from where he was now, everything made sense, and everything was OK. Everything. I did not understand it, and to me, nothing made sense and nothing was OK. But it made a deep, deep impression on me, and has stayed with me ever since.

    And since then, I have come through so much healing, so much more life experience. I found God, and the love of God became my whole reason for being. And now I believe for myself: everything makes sense (from God's perspective, if not from mine), and everything is OK (ultimately, even if it's sometimes literally unbearable for some of us here). The outer experience of trauma and the inner conviction of faith are irreconcilable, at least so far by me. But now, the inner conviction wins, even when I hit a trauma trigger, and my heart breaks, and I shrink down behind all my old defenses, and I can't stop crying. Even then, nowadays, I choose God with no hesitation, no doubt. 

   Christ was crucified. I don't understand that. I don't believe it was to buy us off the punishment we deserved for our sins, the death penalty every one of us supposedly owes to God for whatever large or small wrongs we've committed. The God of my understanding is not that kind of a harsh master. He is a Lover, a Mother, a Brother, and the mirror image of our ideal Self. He is the Earth in which I take root and flourish. He is the Sun towards which I can unfold and grow. He is the Water that gives me life, and the Air I breathe. God is Love, infinitely Love.

    So why did God come into the world, in human form, to suffer and die alongside us? Instead of just taking all the suffering away? I don't know, but I would not now give back any of my life in exchange for an easier one. None of the hard, dark parts can dim the luminous warmth of the loving Presence of God. Resurrection is real! Amen, Alleluia. 


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