Spiritual Overextrapolation [Pope Francis Bookclub]

Spiritual Overextrapolation [Pope Francis Bookclub] May 26, 2014

In 2014, I’m reading and blogging through Pope Francis/Cardinal Bergoglio’s Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus.  Every Monday, I’ll be writing about the next meditation in the book, so you’re welcome to peruse them all and/or read along. 

I’m non-metaphorically feverish, so my thoughts on this week’s chapter from Pope Francis’s book will be brief.  Here’s the quote I was most struck by in this week’s reading:

When Jesus Christ is present, the true light shines and all shadows disappear (1 John 2:8).  But then begins the drama of the rejection of the light.  This light, which brings the law and the prophets to fulfillment, is spurned, because its luminosity is different from what was expected; its brilliance illumines places other than those imagined; it provokes opposition as challenging as it is perplexing.

In many of the stories and parables of the Bible, there’s a danger in looking too far beyond our daily needs and tasks.  There’s nothing wrong with curiosity and theorizing, but, if we push too far past what we know, we have to hold on lightly to the ideas we build, so that we don’t become Fred Hoyles–clinging to his theory of the Steady State universe long after it had been disproven.

If you’ve ever done an experiment and been angry at your data as it came in and started looking noisier, then you’ve experienced the kind of perplexing challenge that Pope Francis is describing.  Although you started by trying to discover something true, the truth isn;t welcome by the time it shows up.

This kind of reaction can be triggered even by truths that are obviously welcome news, from an outside perspective.  If you lose your wallet, panic or yell at someone, and then the wallet is found, your previous distress no longer feels justified, so it almost feels more desirable to be seriously inconvenienced in order to have a consistent narrative of the experience.  (Same goes for not wanting to resolve a fight and re-recognize your opponent as a person again).

Christ comes and upends the old order and the old expectations.  He doesn’t contradict the world we’ve known so far, but, as a friend of mine recently said about mathematics, “[He makes] simple things complex so that complex things become simple.”

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