Friday, July 29, 2011
Blog # 170 Freedom
Blog # 170 Freedom As I recall it, it must have been back around 1936 when Sister Mary Polycarpa OP taught our fifth grade English grammar class the meaning and proper use of the words may and can Can has to do with ability, power, knowledge, time available, and talent. "I can means I have the power, ability, knowledge, money, etc to do something, to go somewhere. If I were to ask the school's basketball coach "Can I substitute for Pete Murphy in his absence this evening?", the answer "Yes" would mean the coach judged I was able to do that, and my question would have sought that precise information. In 'can' questions the information sought has to do with the person asking the question. A 'May I' question seeks information that has to do with the person who is answering the question. The information sought is in the power of the person to whom the question is addressed. 'May I' questions seek permission for something and asks am I allowed to do this or that, would you permit me to do this or that. The difference in the two questions would show if I were to stand before Pete and the coach with loaded camera, fully charged flash and a confident smile and ask "May I take your picture together?" I know I have the power to take the picture but I want to know whether I have permission to take it. "May I?" In another scenario I am in a supermarket in quest of a jar of mustard. A friendly clerk asks me "Can I help you?" My correct answer would be "Yes, IF you know where the mustard is". My answer has a condition on it. If the clerk said " May I help you?" I would have correctly said "Yes, please do". Now, applying all of this to our unique individual relationship with God it comes out this way. In order for God to help us, we have to be searching. As Psalm 42:2, and Psalm 63:2 put it "thirsting" for God "in truth"( Ps 145:18). To be thirsty is to be in need, to be reaching out, to being aware of a personal incompleteness. To search for anything that is good,in view of our faith in a single Creator of all that exists, is in its completeness a search for God. God is all powerful. all good. and loves and cares for all creation with an everlasting love. If we ever hear God asking the question "CAN I...?, that is merely God's way of asking us do we know who God is. When we know, the question need not be asked. It is altogether different with the 'May I' question. This question comes from God to all believers over and over again. The very nature of the question implies and requires freedom on the part of the person to whom the question is asked. The question comes through our conscience in many forms. "May I give you peace, patience, generosity, forgiveness of your sins, a deeper faith, courage. May I help you think of the poor among you, feed the hungry of the world, and help you pray? God CAN do all of this. Because of an unfathomable mysterious infinite love God asks MAY I do it in you? Though we are commanded to go one way, we are free to go another. Freedom is a mystery. It is like fire. It can give light. It can give warmth. It can destroy. It is one of the essential elements in the content of the notion we have received in faith concerning our creation "in the image and likeness" of God. What a gift! What a God!