Saturday, May 21, 2016

Alien nation

There is an enormous article in the paper today about how hard it is for poor kids who have been admitted to Ivy League universities.  Despite the financial assistance they receive, it is not enough to afford them everything they need, much less to keep up with those kids from affluent families.  The universities, confronted with their discomfiture, promise to do even more.
It sounds like my own experience, even though my parents paid my tuition and fees.  I only had to work to pay my expenses, but I could not dream of doing or having what the affluent kids enjoyed.  It resembles even more what my dad experienced, coming from no financial means at all.  He did it all the way through a dozen years of grad school, by the end of which he had a wife, a house, and three kids.  Talk about not being able to afford everything you need!
At least in hindsight, I do not consider myself deprived, though at the time there may have been some lament.  When I hear stories of college students’ suffering, I recall my own experience.  Of course you don’t have everything you want or need!  Of course you resent those who do have it!   Of course this causes friction in your relationships and disappointment in your lot!
Not only material things cause this friction and disappointment.  It encompasses physical appearance and ability; social skills, friends, and relationships; academic and leadership ability; and even families – especially loving parents who are still married to one another.  Aware of what we lack, we see or presume that others have it.  The result is a separation among people, a distance of experience and expectation that leads to resentment and envy. 
It is a short and logical step to thinking one is being willfully or programmatically deprived.  The groaning students contrive, or are instructed by reporters, politicians, or professors, that this grief and sadness is somebody’s fault, an intentional privation, perhaps on the basis of disability, ethnicity, sex, or some other such identity.  Friction becomes accusation and conflict.
But this alienation is characteristic of the human experience; the wealthy, handsome, and successful do not themselves escape it.  It is the result and evidence of original sin; we all experience it.  No program or payment can level this playing field or equalize this balance.  No human effort can eliminate the distance and disappointment that grows between souls. 
There is only one place where such alienation is itself completely alien, and that is the inmost being of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Nothing is withheld, everything is offered, all is received and gratitude returned.  This is perfect love, lived, offered, and sustained.  This is what we lack.

Everything that the Father has is mine, says the Lord to His disciples today in the course of His farewell.  In withdrawing, He promises the coming of the Spirit, who will take from what is mine and declare it to you; that is, nothing that belongs to God will be withheld from them.  It is all theirs – ours – for the receiving. 
The unspeakable mystery of the Holy Trinity is no arcane point of theology, but the ground of our being, and its goal.  God alone withholds nothing.  To allow the Spirit of Truth (to) guide (us) to all truth is be rescued from our alienation from God  -- and from one another.

Monsignor Smith

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