I have been spending the summer preparing for the courses I am to teach at Wake Forest Divinity Schoolin the fall. One is on Mysticism. Instead of doing a historical sweep, I picked the mystical writers that intuitively came to mind. Yes, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, but also Simone Weil.
This week I realized that I chose Simone Weil because she speaks a truth that I need to hear.
Weil pushed the Church to pay attention to persons more than positions. She once wrote, “Faith is to believe that God is love and nothing else. Faith is to believe that reality is love and nothing else.” It doesn’t matter what we say we believe if we do not love our brother and sister—and not in some general way but the specific people that live in our cities and towns.
Weil was a genius. There were few subjects she could not master: mathematics, philosophy, theology. Yet in the mid 1930’s she resisted taking a position in a university because she did not want to be separate from the struggles of ordinary people. Instead of teaching at Cambridge or Oxford, she worked in factories and on farms in France. During the war itself, she often only ate the amount of food that those in occupied France were given as rations even though it worsened her already poor health. She died from tuberculosis at 38.
Simone Weil showed us that the love of God is about people or it’s not love. She had a mind that enabled her to think in complex philosophic abstractions, but she kept rooting herself in the reality of common ordinary people. In like manner, she called the Church to bridge that gap as well.
If we proclaim the love of Jesus but are disconnected to the suffering in the world we are as St. Paul says, little but a “clanging gong.” But equally it doesn’t matter if we are consumed with the suffering in the world without the container of Christ’s death and resurrection. The first is ungrounded and the second has no context.
We as the followers of the Lord have to embrace the Incarnated God whose radical transcendent love is embedded in this world. Our cruciform love reaches up and out.
This is so important today. So much of our political conversation is disembodied and disconnected. As followers of the Incarnated God, our task is to pay attention to the suffering of real people in real places and rediscover how the Good News of Jesus calls us to respond. I am interested in the talk in the halls of Congress about health care and the budget because they will have a profound effect on individual lives. But instead of being consumed in that struggle and fixating on the talking heads on the news shows, I am more interested in connecting my faith in God with the conditions and struggles of people around me. I am seeking to remember that “Faith is to believe that God is love and nothing else. Faith is to believe that reality is love and nothing else.”
Yes, we need people to advocate for just policies in Washington and Raleigh, but that’s not my calling. It’s not good for my soul to participate anymore in disembodied talk about categories of people, nor to believe that the people on television can hear me shouting about what they should do.
In this moment, my calling is to embrace the mystery of the Incarnation which means that the Word is becoming flesh in the ordinary places of my city. My task is to attend to the suffering and struggles of real people in real places so that my faith might be renewed.