The numbers of our bulletin are henceforth too many to be possible to send them all in the ‘opening mail’. So here is a short summary of numbers 13 and 14.
N° 13, March 2002: The good father
In this time of lent, we are looking forward to Easter. But we must also go through all the passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ. How may we not recognise in his Passion the sufferings of those children who are beaten, betrayed, humiliated, raped? How is it possible not to question ourselves about the Father? ‘Father, why have you abandoned me?’ Jesus cries on the cross. Jesus alone, abandoned by all: condemned to die by his enemies, abandoned by his friends (Mathieu 26, 56). Why this silence of the Father? Are we not tempted to confuse our human understanding of what a father must be, modified by, distorted by our own wounds, our own wishes, our personal history. What can this Father do, beholding his Son nailed to a cross, if not to suffer too in his Love, but be crucified by the suffering of his Son, but also by the betrayal of his friends, the cruelty of his enemies, the silence of all? No, the Father is not silent. In this Love beyond our grasp, He offers us his Son and like Mary at the foot of the cross, in his tears, he suffers in silence because of our pettiness, and our sins.
But let’s call upon Father Bruno’s pastoral experience:
As a priest, we hear about child abuse in pastoral circumstances that may surprise at first, but which are finally terribly evident. Sometimes, in the course of discussions with non-practising believers who are applying for marriage or for the baptism of their child, a profession of non-faith arises, a clear expression of non-faith with its argumentation: ‘If you knew what I endured with my father. How I was beaten and mummy did not want to know about it. No thanks, an extra Father in heaven, at the best it is useless, and at the worst it is frightening!’
To say to God ‘Our Father’ when our experience has so disfigured the father image that it obstructs the whole of our horizon, we are physically and emotionally prevented from allowing ourselves to imagine God in such a way. What ought to have been an icon of God: a good father or a good mother, has become an idol, a substituted perverse image that diverts from the true God.
Some time ago, a father, a good father, taught us, twenty five priests, his audience, something beautiful about the Gospel. He pointed out that Jesus did not instruct directly children, but adults. It was to adults that Jesus spoke of our Father in heaven, and all that follows is also true for mothers.
If you say to a child who has a good father: ‘God is your Father’, the child projects his experience. Daddy, he is brilliant, he is magic. I am hungry? I am afraid? I want? Just by making the right face, my word, my cry work each time. It is magic… And God-the-Father will be seen later as an inefficient magician!
If you say to a teenager who has a good father ‘God is your Father’, the teenager will projects his need for freedom, for independence, he want to fend for himself. In the same way as his father that he must reject to become adult, God-the-Father is a nuisance in the way of his freedom that must be circumvented in order that he may exist.
But if you say to a father: see your own experience. It is wonderful and so impressive to be a father. You can do everything…but what is essential. If you do the difficult school exercises for your child, in six months’ time, he will become lazy and hopeless. If you leave him by himself, he despairs and anguishes. You must neither be too close nor too far, and it gets you at the guts. When he leaves home, it was what you wanted, but you are afraid… . Well, God is like you’. Then the adult can say: ‘If God is like that, then I understand, it is wonderful’.
This teaching helped me a great deal in understanding wounded adults. And you can see what can be learned for helping wounded adults: ‘You will not find God by remembering yourself as a son or a daughter. Your parental image unfortunately is mixed up. Your father is not an ‘icon’ that reveals God, but an ‘idol’ that obstructs your horizon.’ ‘Nevertheless, you may be able to understand God by searching what you try to find in yourself in order not to reproduce the wrongdoing. Your efforts to become a father, which you ignore what it is, your dream of what a father ought to be, and you try to become, all that will be an icon of God. Your experience will open up your understanding and the path to faith. You will always be more or less afraid of God-the Father because you identify yourself with the child. But you will be able to learn to look at your own experience of a father who is trying to do his best, and that is great for your child and for you, child of a God who was incarnated on earth, a child, abused by the fathers, the great men, the leaders of society.
If the child image is prevalent in your mind, then, God is also on that side… and bit by bit, you will be able to evolve from the idols ‘I am the abused child of a bad father’, … to the icon: ‘I am a father who encounters a God who has chosen to reveal himself as a child to re-join all the abused on earth and offers a path of hope to humanity.
Of course, those words are just words. But what else do we have, together with our respect, tenderness, and our prayers, to be by the side of the wounded great or small.
‘ Father Bruno
N° 14, May 2002: The Father’s silence
In the previous issue Mona mentioned the Father’s silence saying ‘no, the Father is not silent’ (N° 13, March 2002).
Nevertheless God’s silence is a real question for man.
In the Jewish world, the shock of the Shoah equally led to this question.
Man as sinner doubted of God’s word. Since then, man doubts of God, and this is the cause of his own hell. Only a clear, constant and true ((faithfull ?) word from God to man may restore his trust.
To be able to understand this, one must go very far back. The Bible tells us of a double accusation, symbolically and really put in the mouth of the evil one, called the Accuser.
- A. Addressing Adam, Satan pretends that God does not love him. Or loves him only that he may retain him as an enslaved bigot. ‘Eat the fruit of the tree; God hides from you your freedom, your dignity’.
- B. To God, Satan pretends that Man does not love him. Or only for what he may benefit from him. ‘Take away his possessions and over more his family, and then you will see that for all his worthiness he will curse you.
Now God cannot save man by casting a formal justice upon him. He must, with a true self giving love, that respects man’s freedom, make him capable of the same true love, and without the help of any magic.
The solution is to be found within Jesus, true God, and true man,
A. God, by becoming man, loves man unconditionally.
B. From the same place, on the cross, the Man Jesus loves men and God.
1 – The Man who loves the wicked who reject him that they may carry on their deeds of darkness, He prays for them.
2. – More trying, he loves the friends, who out of fear, abandon him and do not come to testify at his trial in defence of the just one wrongfully accused. He forgives them.
3. – And finally, the most trying, he endures men who want to make an alliance with God but who doubt of God. And Jesus remains faithful to himself when God makes himself incomprehensible. He goes to the end of his course of self-gift. (That we may venture to reword as follows: If God appears to him to be unfaithful ‘Lord to me you have become like failing waters (Jeremy 15, 18b), Jesus remains faithful, because He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2,13c)).
By this silence, as crucifying for the Father as for the Son, the Father gives the Man the opportunity to love, to be faithful to him-self when the friend, the ally, the Father, God, seem to fail him.
Why does he do it? Why must he do it? Why must he submit to it, in a common motion with his son who believes he is abandoned? Because it is the only way for a man to enact, for the first and only time in the history of men, a true love. That is to love the other one, even when he is, or seems miserable to me.
To love the wealthy, even the wicked know how to! Loving the poor, or those I believe so, only a saint knows how to. Only the Saint of God, boundlessly incarnated in the history of mankind, having completely taken his humanity upon himself, his anguishes, except sin, only God’s Saint has truly been able to love.
Only by faith and baptism, by which we become members of his body, only thus, may we enter Love and receive Life.
Yes, God abstains from words, military interventions, or seductive magic. Yes, and more than us, God of all love suffers from our petty loves and our crimes. Yes, God has no other answer than his presence on the cross.
Before the mystery of evil, and specifically the kind of evil which our prayers address, it is only by looking up at the cross to see the Father’s suffering that we may find a path to salvation that may give us back the ability to love.