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God Is Person
It will be helpful if we begin with the simple observation that we are gathered together here, and then consider what this means.
Let us ignore external interpretations which give us answers connected with fideism and tradition, and instead follow that interior voice which springs from our consciences and convictions.
What, then, is the meaning of our presence here? It stems from the fact that we have within us a specific interior need which has brought us here. We cannot explain what this need is if we do not accept that each one of us has an interior life or inner person: we do not consist only of an exterior or outer person, but also of an interior person.
So the need which has brought us here comes from within, from the interior person, and belongs to our soul. The inner person is seeking, and if it is to be successful in its search and find what it seeks, it must engage in interior recollection, in which it operates according to different rhythms and methods from those of the outer person. A retreat is principally a matter of recollection not quantitative recollection, but first and foremost interior recollection.
Our presence here is therefore not only a result of tradition, a certain impulse or some atavistic instinct. Of course a large part is played by tradition, as made up of "facts" which we inherit from experience as a whole; there are many, many different lived experiences of Christianity, Catholicism and the Church; we feel our link with them, and that is why we are here. Theexperience which brings us here is also very personal and consists in the need of the interior person.
This is significant in an age where it would seem that the whole destiny of the person and of his existence must be guided and directed from outside, with external means that is, with the use of methods and means produced by people. This is happening in our particular age, when man's marvelous accomplishments are without parallel in the past or at least so far as we know. However, even in this era, where people want to plan man's whole destiny and existence from outside with the help of technical means provided by so-called civilization, the person comes to realize that everything he produces and creates outside himself cannot be compared with himself and that he cannot stand outside himself. Inside, we are ourselves, and this basic and constant awareness of the existence of the interior self or soul gives rise within us to the need for fulfillment, which is why we have come on this retreat.
The reason we have come is to observe our own self with care and attention. Let us carefully observe our self in different situations and activities; let us constantly examine and observe our self, I should say, in view of its vital and absolute importance.
We come here to examine our self, and not only for the importance it has, for example, in relation to the proper development or running of a certain laboratory or office or occupation (including cooking and housework); in these cases the self has only a relative or functional importance. However, the self also has its own absolute importance. If we come on retreat, the aim is to examine our self under the aspect of absolute importance.
I should like to explain the difference between relative and absolute importance with the help of a very ordinary an example; for you it will already be a part of the past, since it refers to high school days. Sometimes a student will solve some very difficult problem in class, and this is an important moment for him; then at the end of class, the students start playing ball and the one who solved the problem so brilliantly now shows no aptitude at all for the game, while another manages to shine and show his importance. These are two examples of relative importance. The different moments of relative importance in my past constantly shift; in the example we saw that while one person is important in one field, another is important in a different one. We receive continuous information on such aspects of relative importance. We are constantly informed of outstanding human achievements in the field of sport and maybe somewhat less so in the field of science. (To avoid any misunderstanding, I would hasten to add that I am very interested in sport and, indeed, that I am just as interested in sport as I am in science.) We are constantly kept up to date as regards sport, science and technology, and we share in these moments of relative importance for mankind a gold or silver medal, a cosmonaut, and so on. All these things refer to the aspect of relative importance.
However, we have come here with another attitude and a different aim: that of seeking what is important in an absolute senseThis is of real interest. We are here as a group, but we are not an undifferentiated mass. There is no gathering in which each one of us is more wholly himself and has a fuller sense of his own selfhood and his own absolute importance than he has here. So what we want to do is to examine our self with care and attention under the aspect of its absolute importance.
In human beings this awareness is linked to their relationship with God. You may be surprised at this, but I would ask you to look at yourselves carefully, especially in moments of personal prayer. Every time we enter into contact with God we rediscover our self in its absolute importance. This rediscovery is of course not always simple or easy or, let us say, clear. Our prayer is sometimes mechanical and superficial, and with our experience and knowledge we do not even manage to glimpse the essence of our search for our personal...
The Way to Christ. Copyright © by John Paul Ii Pope. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.