Falafel, Faith, and Mystical Fraternity

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him. (Matthew 11:27)

The bush burned, but the flame did not consume it. Moses grasped immediately: I am looking at something divine. I think we can understand the burning bush as a symbol of: the other human being. Any other human being. Any human being with whom I come into contact.

Amsterdam FalafelshopAll of us have mysterious, practically unfathomable depths. I know that, within me, mysteries dwell. Ugly ones, and beautiful. The same goes for every other burning bush of a human soul.

I was reading a little essay by an interesting college-educated young man. He wanted to see “how the other half lived,” so to speak. So he got a job at a falafel joint not far from where I grew up.

Problem is, the young man could never quite relate to his Honduran co-workers as fellow human beings. To him, they simply represented a “class.” The young man was stuck in his own vision of the world, in which two fundamentally different species dwell, namely 1) Privileged white boys like himself, and 2) Other. So he gave up his experiment and concluded that the class divide cannot be bridged.

I give the young man credit for his honesty. What did he lack? What could have given him real success in his endeavor to get to know a fellow human being, a fellow human being who speaks Spanish and makes his living frying falafel? The young man never went down the one avenue that really does lead into another person’s soul: God. Revealed by Christ.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis practices a particular kind of spiritual life: the mysticism of the other person. He wrote in Evangelii Gaudium:

The only way is to learn how to encounter others with the right attitude, learning to find Jesus in the faces of others…a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being. (91-92)

God will unfold the mystery of Himself before me, if I let Him move me to love my fellow human being, as a true brother or sister, to be loved as I love myself. Faith in the infinite mystery of God is the key. Faith in the eternal, mutual gaze of love that the Father and the Son exchange, the Holy Spirit.

Truly knowing another person, and truly knowing God, then, go together. If I want to know God, I must let Him meet me in my neighbor. And if I want to know my neighbor, I must abandon myself to the full, mysterious reality of the person who God made that neighbor to be. Which means simultaneously abandoning myself to the full, mysterious reality of who God made me to be.

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