Wow! We made it to 2019. Happy New Year to you and your family! I guess many of us are beginning the year with New Year Resolutions. We might have taken time to look at 2018 and have come up with a list of things we would like to change in 2019. There may be new dreams that we want to pursue. The New Year is pregnant with things that would fascinate and challenge us.
Typical of many of us, the language of our resolution is the “I”. I want to be that. I want to do this. I want, I want, I want. Somehow, we are driven by American self-determinism. “I am the captain of my ship and the ruler of my life. I get to decide what I want, what is right and who I would let into my life. No one can boss me around in 2019. My destiny is in my hands”.
It is interesting what Hans von Balthasar, a renowned Swiss Catholic Theologian, called this “I” language – the “Ego Drama”. He uses the Ego, the “I” Drama as a metaphor to describe life. While he acknowledges the extent to which our contemporary society is influenced by the I language, he also warned us of its danger: autocracy, and the “isms” as its aftermath. He could see at his time that the I language was leading us to absolute relativism.
So, in the light of Balthasar’s insight, I would like to caution our use of the I language. Now, this is not to state that the I is evil, and as such it should be avoided. For the Ego is part of God’s creation. And Genesis chapter 1: 31 reveals that all that God created was very good, including the I. However, after the fall, creation needed redemption. It needed to be enlightened by the light of the Gospel.
Consequently, Balthasar offers us another metaphor of life. He calls it “the Theo Drama”. “Theo” which is the Greek word for God. So, for Balthasar, “the Theo Drama” is the God Drama. It is the drama where the language changes from the I to the “we”; God and human beings. It is the drama that brings us all into dialogue with our Creator. The Drama that allows us, in the words of Paul’s letter to the Galatian 4:4-7, to call God “Abba! Father!” Affectivity!
In the Theo Drama, God is personal. He has feelings. He comes to us. He befriends us. He calls us out of our own reality, like the shepherds in the Gospel reading taken from Luke 2:16-21. It is pretty much like what the German Philosopher G.W.F. Hegel says about “the process of thinking, which entails a form of negotiation, and thus a degree of self-displacement, so that the self-examined mental life requires a move away from solipsism and self-preoccupation”.
So, the shepherds in encountering the Christ Child, were displaced. But that displacement became an opening for God’s grace. It became the path through which God led them to the bigger reality. The reality that filled them with awe and praise of the goodness of God. The shepherds as we heard in the Gospel reading couldn’t contain this awe, they had to announced it to others.
Friends, the Theo Drama doesn’t just make us exclusive characters in the drama. It sends us out; to go and tell the whole world what we have experienced, the fulfilment of God’s promises, which is an assurance that He will fulfil His promises to us too. It sends us to make disciples. It summons us, breaks us, moulds us so that God can use us to achieve His purposes in life.
So, as we make our New Year resolutions, we should be able to state clearly what we want using the I language. But we should also ask the Lord, what does He want of us in 2019. Where is He leading us? What areas of our lives does He want us to change? The benefit of the Theo Drama is that it fosters healthy relationships and it brings about the civilisation of God’s love.
Mary was civilised by God’s love. She took part in the Theo Drama from the moment her parents dedicated in the Temple. She depended on God and did what the Lord wanted of her. Thus, when the angel announced she will be the Mother of Christ, she joyfully said yes. Paraphrasing today’s Benedictus Antiphon, “in Mary’s womb, God became what He was not – man without losing what He has always being God”. Therefore, Mary is God’s Mother.
Perhaps, in the story of Mary becoming the Mother of God the drama might to have begun with the Ego. But I doubt if that was the case. Nevertheless, the language seems to have been that of the Theo Drama from the moment Mary became conscious of her life as a gift from God. This life, she gave it back to God so that she can become the person God created her to be.
Friends, this should be our journey this year – moving from the Ego Drama to the Theo Drama. For God desires our desires. He wants us to tell Him what we desire individually. But he also wants us to let Him lead us. I would conclude with a Hebrew Proverb. “God is light. Prosperity is His shadow. When you walk towards God, His shadow would follow you. But when you chase His shadow and ignore His light, His shadow would elude you”. Happy New Year!
Fr. Francis Afu