Wednesday, May 24, 2006

God and Theology Studies

Last week we had a day of reflection for those of us that just finished our first year of theology studies here at Weston. We spent some time reflecting, praying and sharing about a couple of questions. The first was: Where have you found God in this past year?

One of the interesting things was that it was difficult for me to say that I found God in my studies. Though I am intellectually challenged and engaged by theology, too often there is a disconnect between the God I encounter in the theology I'm reading and the God I know in my spiritual life. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than in considering some of the contemporary perspectives on Christology. The picture of Jesus Christ that so many of these writers were trying to come up with (to account for such problems as religious pluralism and/or the scandal of Christ's passion and death) often seemed so far removed from the Jesus Christ I know in my prayer life. This is especially difficult, I think, because I'm a Jesuit--the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is so central to our spirituality that I've spent a lot of time with Jesus in prayer, and I have come to terms with the scandal and mystery that is part and parcel of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. It seems that many a contemporary theologian wants to be able to rationally explain everything and, as far as I am concerned, that's impossible. And I'm comfortable with that! Indeed, it is this aspect of our faith that in many ways makes it so real to me. The cross isn't supposed to make sense, it is supposed to bother us and even scandalize us. To take that away is to water down who Jesus was and who Jesus is, at least in my humble opinion.

So, often the way in which I found God in my studies this year was by way of contrast. I often felt as if I was trying to save God from theology! And, of course, there is something good in that. It forces you to examine what you do believe and what you don't believe, and why. And, that, in many ways is the purpose of theology. I do hope, however, as I go along that I can find more in theology that I can "connect" with.

Where I did find God the most this year was actually not in my studies, though. It was in and through the people that make up the many communities of faith to which I belong. First, is my Jesuit community which has been a great source of support, fraternity and fun throughout the year. I think it would be hard to get through theology if I were just a "lone ranger" returning to an empty home after class each day. Also of great importance was the community of theology students both Jesuit and otherwise here at Weston. We have such a vibrant, wonderful and diverse community, which to my great joy includes a lot of young people not far removed in age from my students at Loyola. They give a lot to me, and I, hopefully offer a little bit of wisdom and hopefully some good example to them. But, mostly, I just enjoy their company, whether we're talking about theology or something goofy. Then there is this "virtual" community which I belong to in the blogosphere, a community of friends which I know intimately, but have never met! We share a lot and support each other by sharing our experiences with each other, and our prayers. It is in all these wonderful, different, and faithful people which I am privileged to have in my life, where God has been most present to me this year. I thank God for that!


Anonymous A said...

Wow Mark, I can so relate to this post on so many levels, especially where you write that you are comfortable with not being able to rationally explain everything. Indeed, the cross is supposed to bother us and scandalize us.

Some great stuff here. I'm also grateful for my communities, not the least of these being the virtual community as you write. I'm glad to have become a part of yours.


2:55 PM  
Blogger Neil Ellis Orts said...

Hello! Just found you by accident, as I was clicking through some blogs. Your post on your studies reminded me of my first year in seminary. (I'm a failed Lutheran seminarian.) I remember telling someone, "I thought a class on the New Testament would teach me something about God, but nope. It pretty much just told me about the New Testament." Which I guess is appropriate, but not what I was expecting at sem.

I'm also intrigued by your comments about the cross. I guess I try to walk some middle ground because I disagree with those who find the cross insignificant, but at the same time I don't find the substitition sacrifice talk all that compelling anymore, mostly because I don't believe the cross was ALL Jesus was about.

But we agree the cross is a scandal. People forget what it was. A few years ago, I commented on a coworker's cross around her neck. It was beautiful. In our conversation about it, I said I'd contemplated designing a line of jewelry using an electric chair, to bring the cross into the 20th century (which is was at the time). The thought of wearing an electric chair around her neck creeped her out a bit, more than I thought it would. But it gave me an opportunity to say, "well, now you have a better understanding of the scandal of the cross."


11:30 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...


Thanks for your comments. Glad you stopped by!

11:49 PM  
Blogger angelmeg said...

I have found that in my studies of theology, especially church history, that there is somehow a disconnect between what was happening historically and God. As if God somehow wasn't involved or didn't care about what was happening.

I was very thrown by this in the beginning, but then I realized that this wasn't the intent of the class, It wasn't a spirituality class it was a history class.

I don't know that I can separate the two as easily.


8:28 AM  
Blogger Sr. Lorraine said...

Hi Mark,

Your comment about not finding God in theology studies is quite interesting. It seems that this is a real problem and has been for quite some time.
It wasn't always so--in the Middle Ages theology was seen differently and so many of the greatest theologians were saints, like Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, etc. There's been this separation since then that has made it more like an intellectual exercise than a way to approach God.
My own founder, Bl. James Alberione, often talked about "the sanctification of the mind." He saw the mind, what we think, and what we learn, as an extremely vital part of our approach to God because as we think, so we are and so we act.

10:06 PM  

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