If we were to ask ourselves what personal characteristics we would most value about ourselves, I doubt that many of us would answer ‘dependency’. We live in a culture which prizes anything but dependency. Independence, autonomy, self-reliance are the things that we aspire to for ourselves and that we like to see in other people. Further, in recent times we have coined a whole lot of phrases and words that make us even more suspicious of the experience of dependency: we speak of ‘dependent relationships,’ of people just acting out of their dependencies, and we speak of the phenomenon of ‘co-dependency’ and all it variations.
In short dependency does not have much sale value in our Western world!
And yet, in the way that Jesus teaches us to pray in the gospel we have heard, and in his consideration of the graciousness of his Father towards us, Jesus is inviting us to live out of a radical dependency with him on his Father. This invitation is at the very heart of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ which, every time we say it, turns our attention to the acknowledgement that we are not self-sufficient in either our material or spiritual needs. Despite our efforts to project the opposite, we are not made self-sufficient.
Jesus invites us to live out of a radical dependency with him on his Father. What might this mean for us? Clearly, as today’s gospel indicates, this does not mean an abdication of our own creativity, initiative or responsibility. The dependency the gospel is indicating does not mean that we should forego ‘knocking, asking, searching.’ Dependency in the gospel does not mean passivity. Quite the opposite! I think the gospel’s sense of dependency equates to a kind of trust. We are to live our lives with trust.
What is this trust about? It is to believe at heart that God is for us, that God works for our good, and that God is working through the events or our own life to bring about his purposes for us. This belief does not mean that we will not have difficulties, that we will not make mistakes and that seemingly bad things won’t happen to us. This belief does not make us immune from life’s unpredictability and vicissitudes. Rather, what I believe it does mean is that we are enabled to enter into all that does happen to us, good and bad, with critical discernment. It means we are given the space to always ask what is the lesson, what is the invitation, what is the possibility contained in any thing that occurs in our life.
In the 17th century there was a famous French spiritual writer, Jean Pierre de Caussade. He wrote these words,
“Faith sees the work of divine action in everything. It sees that Jesus Christ lives in all things, extending his influence over the centuries so that the briefest moment and the tiniest atom contain a portion of that hidden life and its mysterious work. Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, surprised the disciples when he appeared before them in disguise . . . the same Jesus still lives and works among us, still surprises . . . there is no moment when God is not manifest . . . Everything that happens to us, in us, and through us, embraces and conceals God’s divine but veiled purpose . . . If we could pierce that veil and if we were vigilant and attentive, God would unceasingly reveal himself to us and we would rejoice in his works, and in all that happens to us we would say to everything, “It is the Lord.”
De Caussade is not advocating that we passively accept all that happens to us naively as the will of God. Clearly bad things happen to us in our life and this is not the will of God. But what he is suggesting is, that even in the bad things that happen to us, we can still look for an invitation, a new possibility. And this is what it means to live our life out of a sense of faith and trust.
Can we therefore listen to the story and events of our life with this faith and this confidence? Can we enter into the events of our life, the good and the bad, always wondering how this or that particular event might hold a new possibility, a new step along the way for us? It is precisely this deep attentiveness to the events of our life that leads us into the same kind of dependency that Jesus had with the Father.
In this relationship Jesus has complete trust. It is the opposite of living in fear and in self-sufficiency: the two mortal sins in the gospel, if you like. For it is the isolation of self-sufficiency and fear which paralyzes us and stunts us. It is always fear which stops us loving in the way that we would most deeply want to. And nothing works to fragment us as much as isolation. That is why Jesus says to us time and time again, “Do not be afraid!”
In other words, “trust and therefore be free to love.”
Today, do we dare to trust in the way that Jesus invites us? Do we dare to allow ourselves to be caught up in the same relationship he has with his Father? Do we dare to utter the name of “Father” deep in our hearts in response to all the events of our life?
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