Over the weekend I revisited Viktor Frankl’s little classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Brian Keenan, who spent nearly five years as a hostage to terrorism in Beirut, called it ‘a hymn to the phoenix rising in each of us who choose life before flight.’ It’s Frankl’s formula for survival drawn from his horrific experiences in the Auschwitz death camp during WW2.
Basically, Frankl discovered that it was meaning rather than convenience, comfort or pleasure that kept the prisoners going. It was the hope of something meaningful beyond their grim and depressing daily grind, something meaningful beyond the horrors of the camp that eventually pulled the survivors through.
For believers today, Jesus Christ is our ultimate meaning and our hope. Pope Francis has been drawing our attention to an alternative way of looking at Jesus, God, ourselves and our world. He seems to say we have been looking only at the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in how we have been reading the scriptures and relating to Jesus. He invites us all to look deeper. What follows comes mainly from reading his encyclical on climate change, ‘Laudato Si’.
He offers a rich vision that comes from a new mind-set and a new heart. He offers a different understanding of Christian life, one that is based on recent theological renewal and new scientific discoveries. Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr has noticed how the deepest intuitions of poets, artists, mystics and scripture itself are aligning with the leading edge of scientific findings today. Francis’ writings and talks are pulling together science and spirituality, mind and heart.
Modern Christian thinkers and writers have been gradually harmonising the mystery of Creation and the mystery of Incarnation. Writings like Dr Ilia Delio’s “The Emergent Christ”, “The Cosmic Christ” and others are being read and discussed by more and more people, especially by believers searching for a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ and meaning for their lives.
“From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the Incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole…” – Pope Francis in ‘Laudato Si”, 99, 100. Francis sees the divine dwelling within creation and humanity. He sees the Incarnation, God becoming human in Jesus, as (among other things) the definitive revelation of who God is, what the universe is and who we humans are.
Divine love attracts and drives everything. Love teaches us to recognise God among us and burns in the human heart a need for the ‘beyond’ of life.
“I see his blood upon the rose,
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies”.
These words from Joseph Mary Plunkett’s immortal poem reflect the human need for a meaning and hope which lie beyond finite meanings and hopes.
Fr. QQ. 1/25/2018