What can anyone offer in exchange for their very self? (Matthew 16:26)
The “deep down things” of earth which Gerard Manley Hopkins speaks of poetically (“God’s Grandeur”) come to birth in nature as concrete realities. The seeds which farmers plant in early spring in what seems an apparent random sprinkling, are transformed into long, neat rows of corn, wheat, beets, beans. We realize our first observation was incorrect. Just enough space between the rows and in between the plants allows the sun to warm the seeds and to burrow their roots into richer portions of the earth. When harvest time comes we see the whole crop has benefited.
So, too, the maturation process of the “deep down things” in our own lives. Carl Jung calls it the “individuation process,” others, “self-realization.” The end product results in our standing out from others in our own truth and uniqueness, for unless we know and love ourselves first of all, we can never stand in right relationship to others. Oh yes, we may say we are trying to be charitable, to please others, or not to hurt them—but does this not cause us to sacrifice a part of ourselves? We may soon discover we are always trying to prove ourselves, not realizing we are measuring up to others’ standards, not our own. Instead, we fade into the landscape and the result may be a superficial togetherness with others resembling sardines in a can more than a healthy crop in a field.
Do we really want to foster this kind of community? Think of a cornstalk over-shadowed by another because it was planted too close for comfort. In sacrificing its “place in the sun” so to speak, it shrivels up and becomes useless. In the process of attaining our own individuality, we too can become shriveled up by giving our “place in the sun” to others. In this time of maturation, which our whole life is, we need to have space to grow. The result then is happiness for us and for God both now and at harvest time. Jesus, help us to be true to ourselves!
—Sister Mary E. Penrose
|Sister Mary E Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.