The Supernatural Life


Yesterday's gospel reading provoked an interesting series of thoughts:

'The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.” '

Reading this, it occurred to me that this is all too often my reaction. I'm told about the beauty of the supernatural life, about its promise and its durability. My immediate expectation is that when I embrace this life things will somehow be changed--there will be no more trials and sufferings and heartache and pain. I shouldn't have to go and fetch water from the well any more. Food should pop out of the oven already prepared and beautifully proportioned and seasoned. After all, isn't that more or less what Jesus promises with the whole "yoke is easy, burden light" rhetoric?

No, it isn't. Yesterday it finally slapped me upside the head. The supernatural life is NOT the counternatural life. The supernatural, as the name implies, sits about the natural and contains the natural as a subset of it. That is the supernatural life, the war in heaven, is the real life that we only catch glimpses of through the sacraments. Only rarely are we privileged to see the supernatural life superceding and counteracting the natural life--we call such moments miracles. But the physcially miraculous is only a very tiny part of the supernatural life.

The awareness of the supernatural life and the constant participation in it does change everything--absolutely EVERYTHING. But it neither contradicts it nor does it normally change the parameters of it. What it does change is our perception of what we are about in this life. That change of perception is critical. Once we have tasted the living water we cannot be satisfied with anything less. Once we have seen the Kingdom we cannot continue to live in the desert. The glimpse and understanding of the supernatural life sets everything around us in context. Pain, suffering, outrage, horror, even psychological stress and disease do not pass away. Rather, they become meaningful in a way that, formerly, they were not. Suffering means something because suffering here and now is part of the war in heaven, the battle of angels. The saints speak of sharing in the suffering of Christ as though it alleviated some of that suffering, and in some sense we can understand that when we see that our little suffering contributes to the overall victory--when we suffer in the knowledge of that ultimate victory and in the embrace of it.

So, the key point--the supernatural life is not counternatural. We should not expect that the embrace of it will immediately change all circumstances and change all those things that tempt us and try us. It won't. It will change us--it will make us amenable to further change, to the transformation that leads to the ability to lead an eternal life. But it will not suddenly undo all the choices we have made. If we enter into it tempted by greed, pride, or lust, we will continue to be tempted. However, we will have an awareness of new resources to draw upon. We will have the ability to turn the leadership of the battle over to someone who knows the path to victory, and we can become the footsoldiers we were meant to be--not trying by ourselves to conquer sin, but meekly following the lead of He who does it for us. In this is our victory and our ability to lead others to victory. We are promised a transformed life, but the transformation is not on the level of not needing to eat or drink or exercise or do all those things we do in a day. Rather the transformation is in knowing that whatever it is we do, we never do it alone--we never do it without help and without being loved into eternity.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 25, 2008 7:26 AM.

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