Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To Mask or Demask? That is the Question....


Should we simply wear masks or should we become saints?
All too often life today seems to be totally focused on the externals, on the attractiveness of someone, their popularity, and someone can now be famous for simply being famous.

Where are the real selves out there? What does it mean to be real in such a plastic world?

Fr. Louis Merton, more widely known simply as Thomas Merton, the Benedictine monk in the Cistercian Abbey at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky wrote at length about this issue in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1966 Merton wrote “Perhaps our society will be wrecked because it is so completely taken up with [the] externals and has no grasp of [the] inner dimension of life."

Dogs and cats, horses, trees and flowers, stars and planets – all of these beautiful creations of God are what they are because they fulfill their nature by being who and what they are and what they were created to be!

The way human beings fulfill their nature and the way we excel in beauty and truth is that we are called to holiness. What does this mean? What does the call to holiness mean? What does it mean to be a saint?

Our sanctity—our holiness depends upon our willingness to be ourselves. Merton wrote that “to be a saint means to be oneself.” Therefore one must first discover our “true self.”

Now we can all wear masks from time to time. But we are only fooling ourselves, aren’t we?

But being holy being a saint being our true selves also requires us to share in the work of God to be co-creators, since we are in fact created in the image of God.

Masks please others—we can make others happy by being someone else or being who they want us to be. But we will be miserable and we won’t be ourselves and others will likely pick up on it.
If we want to be the false self, we may well want to live outside of God’s will and god’s love—though we may not  even realize this.

The Pharisees wanted to be little gods among what many of them considered the poor rabble of Israel and the religious leaders of Jesus’ time believed that they were above the common folk, even though they may have not have even realized it.
Sin is Latin word which means “without”. Think about it. Without what? Without God? Without Truth? Without Grace? Without our true self – outside of reality, living without reality, dwelling in a false world, a false reality, indeed, a false self.

There is a certain danger with the false self. If we get too close to a fire, our mask we wear will likely burn up—catching fire and exploding in our face and burn up.
Prayer is where we place ourselves in the presence of the flame of God’s love? All that is false will be burned off. So if pray—really pray—allow our false selves to be burnt away, letting the mask melt away, letting the glow of God’s Grace shine forth from our face like Moses coming down the mountain, of Jesus himself when he was transfigured before Peter, James and John.

But if we avoid prayer, if we avoid change, if we resist conversion, or perhaps worse, if we pray like some, where we “say” prayers, we merely talk at God and we do all the talking, but there is neither inner change nor a dropping of the masks that we proudly wear or unknowingly wear.
[Merton again writes:] The true inner self must be drawn up like a jewel from the bottom of the sea, rescued from confusion and the trivial.”

Even our discovery of God is an illusion. God discovers us. God comes down from heaven in search of us. God finds us and God wants us for us to remove our masks so that [He can and] we can remove our masks and discover our true selves and then we discover the true image of God within ourselves and allow God to see His Son in ourselves that is true prayer and true conversion.
This self-emptying—this dropping of our false self and allowing the diamond in the rough to be cleansed, transformed and polished by God takes place in prayer and through prayer.

Placing ourselves in the hands of God, becoming holy does not involve first the externals, but an inner rebirthing – being born again – as Christ told Nicodemus (Jn. 3).
What is that—to be born again? To once again become our true selves—a new, fresh start and the false self – die and the mask must be removed and discarded.

Paul Tillich wrote: “The courage to be” is in direct opposition to us trying to be this that or being this person or acting like so and so.
Do we really need titles?

I have a degree, but big whoop. I do not demand that you call me “Master” or “Professor”.
I am a teacher, but do not demand that my students call me “Rabbi” or “teacher”.

I am the father to my sons, but I do not demand that they call me “Father”.
St. Paul called himself the father of many Christian communities, but he didn’t demand to be called “father”.

There is only one who is Master, Father, Rabbi, Teacher: God.
So what’s the point? That is the point.

We humble ourselves and God will exalt us. If we empty ourselves God will fill us with life.
If we remove our masks, then God will reveal to us our true selves.

And we will no longer need masks, for we will have become our true selves.
We will become who we are called to be.

We will be happy.
We will be Holy.
We will be saints.  

We will simply be.

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