In the readings for this Sunday we can detect a dynamic of moving, of straining forward into discipleship and identity with Christ. In the gospel (Jn. 1:29-34), John points him out; Behold, the lamb of God… Seek Christ! Move toward Christ! Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:1-3) reminds his listeners that they are indeed, called to be holy. For the Christian, holiness can only be found through living in relationship with Christ and his body – the Church. Isaiah (Is. 49:3, 5-6) prophesies that the true servant of the Lord will not just be a light for the tribes of Jacob but a light to the nations.
This very moving and straining forward is the Church’s law of foundation. There is a wonderful analogy used by St. Augustine in reflecting on Christ as the foundation of the Church and of our very lives.
Foundations, Augustine points out, are usually at the bottom supporting a structure but Christ, as the head, is above. How, therefore, can we call Christ the foundation? There are two kinds of weight, observes Augustine, and here he defines “weight” as that force within a thing that seems to make it strain to finds its proper place. For example, hold a stone in your hand – you feel its “weight” because it is “seeking” its proper place. Take your hand away and the stone falls to the ground. The stone has reached the goal it was tending toward. It has found its proper place – its foundation. Now (and here is where the poetry of Augustine’s analogy comes in), some weights find their proper place by pushing down and others by pushing upward.
Imagine, writes Augustine, a container of oil falling into the ocean, underneath the water and then rupturing. The oil is not content to remain under the water, at the bottom. It seeks its proper place so there is the ‘uneasy movement’ while the oil strains toward its proper place – its foundation – above.
God’s Church – though established here below – strains toward heaven precisely because our foundation is found there – Christ and the fullness of God’s Kingdom. The law of foundation says that objects strain toward their particular foundation and proper place. This is why the Church throughout history and indeed the very life of every Christian strains forward – toward a more just and right existence. This occurs because we seek our foundation. The Church lives in the crucible of history but the Church always strives beyond the merely historical of our world because we seek our proper foundation which is not of the world. If the Church (if we) fail to point and strive toward the Kingdom, if we just become self-referential and enclosed within our institutions then we have forgotten our truth. Yes, there is ‘uneasy movement’ as we strain forward – we have to strain through the weight of this world and our false selves – but we do so in order to reach our true foundation which is more than this world. Our foundation is the Kingdom of God and Christ himself!
John points him out, Behold the lamb of God! We are indeed, called to be holy. This very dynamic of straining toward holiness (often turbulent and uneasy), itself witnesses to the law and truth of our foundation – who is Christ himself.
St. Josephine Bakhita – a woman who was severely mistreated as a slave and who bore the scars of horrendous whippings on her body – implicitly knew this law of her true foundation. She put it this way, “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me – I am awaited by this love. And so, my life is good.”
P.S. Technical issue – I am having trouble uploading photos onto my posts. This has only happened recently. If anyone has a suggestion on how to correct this please let me know.