Other Religions: June 2003 Archives

Another splendid passage:

from Anger
Thich Nhat Hahn

"Happiness Is Not an Individual Matter"

This does not mean that you have to hide your anger. You have to let the other person know that you are angry and that you suffer. This is very important. When you get angry with someone, please don't pretend that you are not angry. Don't pretend that you don't suffer. If the other person is dear to you, then you have to confess that you are angry, and that you suffer. Tell him or her in a calm way.

In true love, there is no pride. You cannot pretend that you don't suffer. You cannot pretend that you are not angry. This kind of denial is based on pride. "Angry? Me? Why should I be angry? I'm okay." But, in fact, you are not oaky. You are in hell. Anger is burning you up, and you must tell your partner, your son, your daughter. Our tendency is to say, "I don't need you to be happy! I can be on my own!" This is a betrayal of our initial vow to share everything.

Even though Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist, he once again touches gently upon some central Christian themes here. The commentary that follows has little to do with the actual passage, which I find true and meaningful, but with meanings that come from its title and its ramifications in the emotional life of the individual.

The beatific vision does not occur in utter isolation from all other human beings. Nor can we truly be happy on Earth so long as one who is near and dear to us is suffering. We can rejoice in God, but like Mother Theresa, we will work to alleviate the unhappiness. And as we grow in our Christian vocation, more and more of humanity becomes near and dear to us, until, separated from all, we become All and every person is valuable to us.

This is why the matter of hoping for the salvation of all is such a major issue to many of us. The thought of even a single soul not sharing the beatific vision is actually painful. As much as part of us lusts for vengeance and proper treatment of those who have done wrong, as much as part of us longs for justice, another part, perhaps much smaller, longs for mercy. We recognize what wretched people we all are and we pine for the blessing of God's grace and mercy. We hope for this grace for ourselves and as our hearts become more like the Sacred Heart, we long for this same mercy to be received by all souls.

Part of us knows that there are a great many hardened, hurt souls who might possibly refuse this grace and mercy, continually offered, continually showered down upon all. Part of us knows that Pride makes us want to "make it" on our own. But still we hope that grace is ultimately irresistable. Certainly God will not force Himself on any, but perhaps the flow of grace will draw people into it, however unwillingly. I think of the miser in Fraçois Mauriac's marvelous novel Tangle of Vipers and the way that grace eventually works its way upon him.

And I do hope because happiness is not achieved in isolation. Although I suppose if I were the only person in heaven with God, I would be happy in some way but I cannot imagine it. Again, St. Thérèse spoke lightly (but meaningfully) what means more and more to me as time goes on, "I want to spend my heaven doing good on Earth." I begin to know God's hunger for all to return to Him, for there not to be a single soul lost and alone.

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I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's marvelous book Anger. In doing so, this passage leapt off the page:

Thich Nhat Hanh

Punishing the other person is self-punishment. That is true in every circumstance. Every time the United States Army tries to punish Iraq, not only does Iraq suffer, but the U.S. also suffers. Every time Iraq tries to punish the U.S., the U.S. suffers, but Iraq also suffers. The same is true everywhere; between the Israeli and Palestinian, between the Muslim and HIndu, between you and the other person. It has always been like that. So let us wake up; let us be aware that punishing the other is not an intelligent strategy.

What I am sometimes amazed by, more often encouraged by, is the wisdom that echoes of Christianity found in nearly any sincere practitioner of his or her faith. This echo, this strain, reminds me of the passage in the creed: "One holy, apostolic, and Catholic Church." It casts new meaning on "no salvation outside the Church." It would seem to me that Christ reaches out from the heart of the Church to embrace people who are looking for Him though they may not know His name. Nhat Hanh certainly knows His name, having written several books in which Buddhism and Christianity are laid side by side and explored. But there are a great many Buddhists for whom Christ is unknown. Jesus still reaches out to these people through the truths of their faith. These are sheep that hear His voice and know it, but who have never seen the Shepherd and do not know His name. Or so I think--naturally, I have no proof of this, and I do believe that they would be even better off were they to know the fullness of the Catholic Faith. But sometimes people are born into a place where that is not a possibility--I believe that even in those circumstances the voice of Jesus is heard. I pray for the salvation of all, that all may be brought into the fullness of faith by our loving Father.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Other Religions category from June 2003.

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