Quick questions, uneasy answers
In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Harry stumbles upon the Mirror of Erised (“desire” spelled backwards). Looking at the mirror, he sees his greatest desire: to be reunited with his dead parents.
In a Gospel reading (John 1:35-42), Jesus asks two disciples, “What are you looking for?”
Fr. Johnny C. Go, S.J., says: “Our Lord isn’t just asking a simple question. He is asking them what their hearts’ deepest desires are. [He] places them before the Mirror of Erised.”
Father Johnny invites us to ponder on what we really long for. People dear to us? Accolades in school or career?
He asks us to gaze upon another mirror, God’s Mirror of Desire for us. Would our own desire and God’s desire for us coincide?
“We usually regard God’s desire, God’s will, as something external and alien,” says Father Johnny. “‘Thy will be done,’ we pray, but we also shiver at the possibilities. What if God wills something unwelcome, unpleasant, painful?”
He says: “God’s desire is our deepest desire already planted in our heart of hearts, except we don’t know it because we don’t look or dig deep enough. We’re too confused running after all sorts of fleeting and superficial desires. We’re too busy pursuing worldly dreams that the world has deceived us into thinking we cannot live without.”
Materials for Father Johnny’s latest book, “Quick Questions, Uneasy Answers: Reflections for the Lost and Found,” are taken from his blog, Pins of Light. Each chapter takes us on a spiritual journey, following the “Spiritual Exercises” of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Deftly weaving pop culture, myth and Gospel, Father Johnny makes the Bible and the Catholic faith accessible, meaningful and relevant.
When the Pharisees condemn Jesus for healing a man on a Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28), Father Johnny compares their behavior to Procrustes. In Greek legend, Procrustes (meaning “stretcher”) claims to have a bed that fits anyone. He stretches out people or cuts off their limbs so they can fit in the bed, killing them in the process.
Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Religious rules should not become a procrustean bed, absolutes to be upheld at all costs.
“Whether we know it or not, we all have our favorite procrustean beds,” says Father Johnny, “the ‘shoulds’ that operate in our lives.”
He says: “We have only one procrustean bed: the love and service of God. Only this ideal will stretch us. If we choose anything else, we will unwittingly reduce ourselves to something much less than what we have been created for.”
When shy, portly phone salesman Paul Potts auditions for the television show, “Britain’s Got Talent,” no one is impressed until “his voice takes flight.”
Potts, singing Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” emerges as the champion. His album, “One Chance,” becomes a hit.
“It’s the God moving in [us], his compassion stirring in [us], that’s irresistibly, hopelessly and divinely attracted to underdogs,” says Father Johnny, who speaks of Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) where she sings of how God lifts up the humble and casts down the mighty.
“God so blatantly and shamelessly favors the underdogs that one can’t help but wonder why he’s such a sucker for them,” Father Johnny says.
God favors the weaker and the younger: Abel over Cain, Jacob over Esau, David over his older brothers, the Prodigal Son over the elder.
“Maybe this ‘favoritism’ is why, when God became human, he became an underdog himself,” says Father Johnny.
The first “Matrix” movie, with its dazzling special effects and action sequences, is, for Father Johnny, one of the “most spiritual” ever.
Neo is offered two pills: blue keeps him blissfully ignorant while red reveals the truth. He chooses red and sees that the real world is ruled by machines, which got their energy from enslaved humans.
In the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), Jesus calls on us to be “poor in spirit.”
“We claim that of course we depend on God,” says Father Johnny. “We believe this … but only in our head. We accept this … but only intellectually. If we look at our usual lives, we live as if we don’t need God at all. Our world has a way of lulling us into believing that we can control our world.”
He says: “We live happily with this illusion in our own version of ‘The Matrix.’” We prefer the blue pill offered by the world, comfortable in our “illusions and attachments.”
When we heed the Beatitudes, the red pill, “we will see things as they are: brief, ephemeral and temporary,” says Father Johnny. “We will also see ourselves as we are: fragile mortals totally dependent on God’s mercy.”
Devil in Prada
Jesus drives out the demon possessing a man (Mark 5:1-20) but “the devil these days probably does wear Prada,” says Father Johnny. Instead of horns and tail, the more dangerous devil masks itself in ultra-busy lives.
“Thanks to cell phones and SMS messaging, we are never alone,” says Father Johnny. “We hardly have time for ourselves [or] the time or space for God. If the devil’s work is to keep us away from God, he is now virtually jobless.”
Father Johnny suggests, “Unclutter our lives, so we don’t end up making life too easy for the devil.”
“Quick Questions, Uneasy Answers” by Father Johnny is available at Christian Life Community (4260074/75 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
E-mail the author at bless email@example.com.