Pandemic Awakenings – Week 11
This Sunday Catholics honour Christ’s presence in the Eucharist on a feast traditionally known as Corpus Christi. It is regarded as one of the great mysteries of faith and is recalled as such at every Eucharist in the words ‘Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith.’
The word ‘mystery’ tends to leave us a bit up in the air with something that we will never understand while in fact a mystery of Faith is something that is both within our reach and yet so beyond it and this is the very thing that feeds our souls which can’t just live on bread and wine alone.
When we think of our very first experience of God, it was actually of God being body and blood. We were encapsulated in the body of our mother and drip fed by her blood. Our first experience of being made welcome and wanted came through our parents, just as our first experience of being held by God came through the embrace of both mother and father. Our first experience of being gazed at in absolute delight by God we found in the gaze of our mother.
This is an amazing reality and a profound truth that long before children make their Holy Communion they have long before experienced what communion is all about through the love of their parents. Parents are in fact God to their children. In fact, it is how the child experiences the love of their parents that will affect all subsequent relationships and determine the kind of god he or she will relate to throughout life. For example, if in life I was inclined to be a bit bold and yet in my father’s eyes could no wrong, the god I will relate to will allow me to make mistakes, not leave me crippled with guilt, and still love me unconditionally. However, if my experience of parents was somewhat cold and distant then the God I relate to will probably seem cold and remote as well.
Our Personal Story
We have looked at the fact that our personal experience as children, especially in relation to our experience of parental love, or the lack of it, affects how we relate to God. You might like to consider a piece of insightful writing from Archbishop Desmond Tuto of South Africa where he says: None of us have the power to say let bye gones be bye gones, and hey presto they become bye gones. Our common experience is just the opposite, that the past far from disappearing or lying down and being quiet, is embarrassingly persistent and will return to haunt us unless it has been dealt with adequately. Unless we are prepared to look the beast in the eye we will find it returns to hold us hostage. No matter how much spiritual discipline we apply to living in the present there is no escaping the story that is really our own reality. It will always come back to haunt us until we claim it as ours.
Our Family Story
In relation to integrating our family story Desmond Tuto has this to say: Every family has a story and every member has their own interpretation of that story, and every member has their own story. If you don’t own your own story, your story will own you, and for the rest of your life. Understand your own and your family story, or it will play havoc with your life, for the rest of your life. We are products of our ancestral story as much as our personal history and we can be controlled by either. Even issues that were carefully guarded family secrets we may be carrying at an unconscious level to the extent of making us sick. A woman who always felt an absence of bonding with her mother and could never understand her coldness only found the reason weeks after she died. Another child had previously been forcibly taken from her mother and given for adoption. This was never spoken about and the wound of separation made future bonding difficult. This woman had lived the legacy of her mother’s secret.
An Approach to Healing
In the Book of Numbers chapter 21 there is an incident that has a lot to say about healing. The people were moaning and whinging against God and Moses for leading them into the wilderness. God was displeased with their complaining and sent fiery serpents that killed many. In their distress they called out to God who commanded Moses to make a bronze replica and whenever anyone got bitten he was to look at the bronze serpent for healing.
The fiery serpents can represent all our hurts and wrongdoings; everything done to us or by us; all we have tried to bury and forget about. These unresolved issues continue to come back to bite us and it is only by facing up to them, symbolized by the bronze serpent, that a process of healing and integration begins to take place. Only by dealing with our past can we enjoy the present and not worry about our future.
There is a disease at large in society that is far more rampant than Covid 19 and has been around far longer; it’s called co-dependency. This is where I live my life through someone else and I become more conscious of their needs than my own. This is reflected in healing services where the vast majority will ask for someone else to be healed but have little awareness of their own need. Co-dependency is where the other has becomes part of my identity and creates the illusion that unless they are fixed I can’t be right and unless he or she is moving on their path my own will remain blocked. In the Gospel story, Peter asks Jesus about the youngest disciple, John saying ‘what about him’? This question lies at the heart of co-dependency and the paraphrased answer of Jesus was, ‘It’s none of your business’. In other words butt out of living his life, be true to your own path and allow him to follow his destiny. A co-dependent has been humorously defined as someone who when they die will see someone else’s life pass before them because they never lived their own.
Closely related to Co-dependency is another disease that is also pandemic; it’s called approval addiction. This is where my sense of self-worth, well-being and happiness are dependent on someone else. It is where in order to feel good about myself I need to look to someone else for approval and validation. If he or she loves me and smiles approvingly I’m having a good day. However, everyone’s emotions are subject to change, and if he or she is having a bad hair day and feeling a bit crunchy I shouldn’t need to get my comb out. One of the great regrets of those who are dying is that they lived too much of the life that others wanted and expected them to live but not the life they wanted. The sense of having sold out on oneself becomes a serious matter when the curtain is ready to drop.
Who controls us?
There are very few of us who from time to time, or even all the time, don’t struggle with issues of self-esteem. If asked to write ten negative qualities and ten positives about myself, the negatives come much more easily to mind. For some reason we find it quite difficult to really believe in ourselves, and that we are good enough. This finds expression in our inability to receive compliments and to downplay our achievements. If my level of self-esteem is operating at only fifty per cent it means that half of my personal power is being lost. A large proportion of it is being given to the one I happen to be closest to and the rest to others. When we realize that someone else has too much power over us, either to make us feel happy or miserable, it is we who have given that power away. My low self-esteem creates an inner vacuum of neediness and so while I may genuinely love another that love is largely based on need. This expresses itself in insecurity, anxiety and a constant need for reassurance from the other of their love. Being jealous and possessive are other manifestations of neediness, all of which have their roots in low self-esteem.