By RON ROLHEISER, OMI
There is an Aztec poem called the Ultimate Problem. It runs something like this:
In the Aztec design
God is in the little pea
that is forever rolling out of the picture
And all the rest extends bleaker
because God has gone away.
In the white man’s design
God is everywhere
but hard to see.
The Aztecs frown on this:
How do you know He’s everywhere?
And how did he get out of the pea?
You could say that
if your are walking the roads of life these days
and if you are looking for God,
or a piece of God
You should be looking down
For is God’s going to be found these days
it’s going to be in small things
it’s going to be close to the ground
it may even be below the ground.
Looking for God, these days
requires the willingness to investigate the small
to look down
to look down
to look down.
The incarnation, the central mystery of our Christian faith, invites us to look down, to investigate the small, to descend. Why? Because that is what God did in the incarnation. He emptied Himself, taking on the form of slave. He became small, a helpless baby.
Unfortunately, even though we all know this theoretically, we find it hard to do practically. Usually when we look for God we look the other way, towards the sky. We investigate the powerful. We try to ascend.
A friend of mine who is a counsellor tells me that, more and more, when people come to him they complain of their powerlessness and ask him to help them find ways of being more empowered. His response generally surprises them. Frequently, when they complain of powerlessness and ask to be more empowered, he asks them this question: “Why do you want to be more empowered? Most people who do have power are pretty unhappy and often they are pretty self-centred as well. Do you really want to be like that? Maybe your experience of powerlessness is a privileged avenue in your quest to know God and your own soul and its depth. Maybe you need to investigate more your experience of powerlessness to see what riches can be found in it.”
The movement of God in Jesus Christ is a downward one. Thus, among other things, it invites us to enter into the experience of powerlessness, it invites us to look down, to investigate the small. It invites us to look for God in the baby rather than in corporate magnate, the president, the prime minister, the rock star, the star athlete, the brilliant writer, the Nobel prize winning scientist, or the Hollywood god or goddess. It is not that God is cannot be present in these. It is just that, given the movement of the incarnation, if we are looking for God these days, we should be looking close to the ground, we should be investigating the small, we should be looking at the baby.
Beyond telling us where we should be looking, the incarnation also tells us which way we should be travelling, namely, downwards. To be Christian, to be persons who keeping giving flesh to God in this world, we must, ultimately, be free of the tyranny of ambition and achievement, of measuring our meaning and success from what gives us upward mobility. A useful criterion to discern whether we are following Christ or following our own desires (under the guise of following Christ) is precisely whether are we moving upward or downward? Are we deeming equality with God as something to be grasped at? Are we growing in power, prestige, and admiration? Or, are we emptying ourselves and assuming the powerlessness of the poor?
There should be no delusion. The Christ-movement is downward