Eucharist: A Present, Familiar Reality

Notes from a meditation given by Luigi Giussani at the Spiritual Exercises for GS of Switzerland. Fribourg, November 1967.
Luigi Giussani

1. The Mystery has become familiar
“The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus. Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is He means,’ so, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said, ‘Who is it Lord?’ ‘It is the one,’ replied Jesus, ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason He said this. Since Judas was in charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival,’ or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen” (Gv 13:23-30).
This short picture contains the whole Christian drama since two thousand years ago, which is not a social drama (if not by reflection). It is the Christian drama since two thousand years ago, the drama that happens in the relationship of the single person, God’s relationship with you, because the Christian drama happens at the level of the individual, at the level of the person, and the rest derives from it.
I would like us to fix our attention on that picture, on that instant, on that moment, in which one of the Twelve, who was close to Jesus, leaned on His breast to ask Him, “Who is it?”
Let’s leave aside for a moment the truth of Christianity. Just think what something of the kind means: God, the Creator, the Foundation, the Mystery who makes all things, is a Man with another man leaning on Him, a little younger than the others, because John would have been about 20 years old at the time; he is there close to Him, and leans back on His breast and asks Him, “Who is it?” and Jesus tells him. He answers him; He was so intimate and familiar; it was so exceptional; it was such a predilection. It was a human, physical, visible reality–this is the context in which God placed Himself for man. Man before God is in this context. He is not “God;” He is this context; He is someone, a reality on which you rest your head. This is man’s religious situation from that time, exactly this. God is so much a part of our way of living, of our existence, that our relationship with Him is objectively illustrated by this moment. It is not an exceptional moment, it is the norm; it is the paradigmatic moment of what happens since then.
That “something more” that everyone desires, that vague but urgent “something more,” that “something more,” unknown, of which man is often or normally unaware, whose meaning he never manages to grasp, that “essential thing,” of which Yevtushenko speaks, and could not put a name to (“After every lesson,” quoted in L. Giussani, The Religious Sense, McGill-Queens, Montreal, 1997, p. 71), that vague “something more,” in such a situation, becomes a reality just as measurable, physically perceptible, physically detectable, feasible, familiar, clear, like a person with whom you are talking at table, with whom you live under the same roof, you eat, you discuss. That “something more,” from that time, becomes an evidence, becomes a sacrosanct need; it becomes evident even in the way you do things: from that time on you know how to do things; you have to know, from that time, how to do things. What you did not know before, what before was a mystery, from that time becomes a precise norm, a norm that you understand and translate; it becomes something real. That charity we spoke of, that love for being–for God and the cosmos, for Jesus and for men, it’s the same–that love becomes normative, it becomes an evident goad, it becomes possible for everyone, and a duty; it becomes the duty of every action; it becomes the clear, conscious inspiration of every action.
The greatest crime, our true crime, is that of forgetting Jesus Christ! I said that the attitude in which to think of God, the imagination with which man instinctively fills up his ideas and his thoughts, this imagination must fix on the scene described in these few lines–because this is your normal attitude. The crime is the distraction with which you–normally–manage to erase even this picture from your existence, from your life.
This morning I stressed how this physical encounter, this physical reality in the encounter with which man immediately and suddenly feels himself taking consistence, and surprisingly getting to know himself, and forcing himself to need that “something more” that would otherwise remain vague, the object of poetic song or of some moments of particular emotion, in any case of an uneasiness impossible to analyze, fruitless, distressing and sterile; this encounter, I said, is the Sacrament.
For there is no difference between the quantity of Mystery present in this “picture,” in the fact that God was that man, to whom I am so sentimentally attached, who is so much a friend to me, who loves me, with whom I am so familiar and united, this man here eating with me, and in the fact that God, the Mystery of God, is in this action that the Church–the Christian community–does, and is called Sacrament. What difference is there between the first aspect of the Mystery and the second? None! The second is no more mysterious; Confession or Communion are no more mysterious than that “picture” of John the Evangelist close to Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no disproportion in this twofold aspect of the one Mystery.
In actual fact, the Mystery of the Sacrament is exactly like the Mystery that John the Evangelist lived; it has the same “scheme.” It is the invisible, incomprehensible, measureless God, the root of the question, who makes Himself tangible, but not like God; God cannot make Himself tangible as God, but He translates Himself into a presence, into a reality present that I meet, a perfectly human reality. Jesus was a man who acted and spoke, just like those men who act and speak in the Sacrament, in the Mystery. And the Mystery, the Sacrament, is an action performed by men, just as, for the Pharisees, Jesus Christ and those around Him were men who performed those actions and who thus contradicted their pure idea of God as inconceivable and unimaginable. In the same way, it can seem absurd to a rationalist today to claim that that action is the action through which God rebuilds a man, with which the power of an Other makes me a new being a thousand times a day, to the point where this conversion can be seen–because I, who could have been like you, am not like you. If you go ahead in this way, when you are forty years old, you will see not what I see, you will not hear what I hear. Whereas I see and hear what you see and hear, because I was once like you; only I am ahead of you, because of something that came to me, that came into me, something I didn’t give myself, something I didn’t get from myself; this something came into me because I kept near a physical reality.
The affirmation that Confession transforms is purely gratuitous for someone who doesn’t use it, or for someone who uses it as an act of piety, and not in the simplicity of that Mystery. And it’s a purely gratuitous and abstract affirmation to say that Communion converts, creates a new man, sociologically visible, with a different mentality, with a boundlessly deeper sensitivity towards man and the problems of his destiny–all you have to do is not to receive Communion, or to receive it just as an act of piety, and not like a beggar who plunges himself into the Mystery of God, without pretensions, but with the certainty that his Redemption will happen, will appear when and how God wants. But it is already happening, it is already happening inside him. You cannot be completely as before if you live those actions; you cannot.
So the greatest danger, for those who approach the Sacrament, is not to approach it for what it is, but for something they imagine it to be, for a reduction to rationalistic or moralistic terms of what is pure Mystery.
The position of John the Evangelist, of that young man with his head resting on Jesus’ breast, objectively and really–I’m not a madman in affirming this–comes back in the Sacrament. And if someone is faithful and follows this road, in this encounter, he changes, he gets a new mentality, a new sensitivity, and a new energy of life.
There are moral possibilities absolutely inconceivable without a lived Christianity (not a lived morality, not a lived religion, but a lived Christianity, the Mystery acknowledged as present, and is asked to enter into flesh and blood and into every action, into one’s life, who is welcomed and is asked to enter more and more into life): for example, faithfulness in loving; for example, love for the truth; for example, being unable to stop, so that nothing that happens becomes an obstacle, a scandal, and stops you going ahead; above all, the capacity of continuity–not an abstract continuity, but a continuity of indomitable recovery, the continuity of life always present, the continuity of life realistically always present, the continuity of the Resurrection.
So you understand how, in my opinion, your attitude has to change and be converted before these things, these moments of life that are the pivot, as Jesus Christ is the pivot of our history–with all due respect to everyone, we would not be here speaking of this, we would never have met each other, were it not for this Fact.
The first aspect of our conversion, the first way of inserting into our life the ardent awareness of that “something more,” of making that “something more” concrete, of making it the soul that transforms our practical existence, of beginning to experience that “something more” inside the things we do every day, inside our duty, whether it’s sweeping the floor or studying or eating (as, from another point of view, Sinjavsky said of the peasant who makes the sign of the cross before eating); for this “something more” to enter, consciously, with more and more vibrancy, more and more transformation, more and more friendly, more and more familiar, more and more acknowledged, for us to walk less and less in the fog, the first point is not to set out to “do something.” The first way of bringing about that “something more,” for bringing about conversion, is to approach the Sacraments. I am not pressing you into a religious practice, but to awareness of an action, of a reality which is Mystery, drawing from which you will become different. So it’s an experience that I promise you, when and how God wants. I am not recommending to you a practice of piety, but a moment that is Mystery.

2. The awareness of one’s own nothingness
and the desire for fulfillment
How do you approach the Mystery? Do you go making pacts? Do you go making a contract? Do you go preparing yourself and then saying, “Now I have the right to come and approach You”? Do you approach the Mystery by first setting things in order yourself and then saying, “Now, then, You are forced to accept me here”? This would be pretension and presumption.
Approaching the Mystery requires only one thing: the awareness of our ineptitude, which is more than nothingness; of our basic incapacity and our continuous betrayal; of our culpable poverty; of our conniving incapacity; of our being nothing. But the word “nothing” does not yet say what we are. There is only one condition: the awareness of what we are, nothing else. In order to approach the Mystery the only condition is this.
Although the way of approaching the Mystery of the Sacrament is different from when someone is there eating together and putting his head on His shoulder, hearing Him speaking of the end of the world and of the Judgment and feeling himself trembling at that voice that is already judging him, they are only different ways of approaching the same Mystery.
Thus, Christ left in our existence a permanence of Himself under fixed aspects. Confession and Communion are the two basic ones through which we approach the Mystery: two fundamental aspects, because one stands at the beginning and the other at the end of our attitude. But it is a dialectic, they are dialectic factors of one single attitude, that of the publican who leaves the temple forgiven–and the Gospel doesn’t say whether he stopped collecting taxes and therefore cheating people. As I said this morning, it is certainly the clearest page of the Gospel from this angle.
To get down to details, Confession cannot be considered in this manner, in the manner I am about to say. Confession can be considered in the manner I am about to say if it is a practice of piety for the usual moralism. That is, “In order to go to Confession, I have to be decided to leave this thing, otherwise I am an impostor, a hypocrite. I go there and I know that, if I get the chance, I can go wrong again after an hour; after three minutes I will go wrong again. So I go to Confession when I have decided.” I ask you, what need was there for the Mystery of God to come into your life if you are able to decide yourself? Or someone expects to approach Confession through an interior way, according to a state of feelings, which implies that conversion has already happened–he weeps bitterly for his failures, and feels anguish at his mistakes. But I say that if you are already changed, it’s useless for you to go. It is a formalistic seal you are after; it is formalism.
Confession is really something quite different. You go to that encounter because you are capable of nothing, you are not able, therefore, at first, to decide for the good. You go to that encounter because you are bogged down in your error; so you go to that encounter as to something foreign to which you are impermeable, and you are full of your bad feeling, full, and you go to that encounter precisely because–the only condition–you acknowledge yourself a poor man. In order to acknowledge you are a poor man, inept, a miserable, hopeless wretch, to acknowledge that you are unjust–this is the more discrete word, but also the clearest– in order to acknowledge you are not yourself, to acknowledge this, you need to acknowledge that “something more” we mentioned before, that you acknowledge that you belong, that your actions belong to a greater context you are not aware of, that you cannot be aware of; you have to acknowledge this and acknowledge that you cannot put yourself right, that you are absolutely unable to leave this or leave that, that you are able to do nothing. This is the precondition, only this. And you go to cry out, to beg that this might change.
In Confession, sorrow is not a feeling, but a judgment; it is acknowledging that your act was not love, was not freedom, was not openness to the “something more,” was not part of a context, but pretension that claims to be a law unto itself. Sorrow is a judgment and resolutions are not a program of which you are master (it’s not that you have suddenly mastered yourself!). It would be useless, it would be emptying the Mystery of Christ, it would be saving yourself. Resolutions are exactly the cry from the last remnant of sincerity left in you: “I am not able, God. You change me. I don’t know how, I don’t know how to go about it, I don’t know how to change myself. You change me, You save me!” Resolutions are this last remnant of sincerity left in you which, as it doesn’t find in itself the solution deemed necessary, cries out to the Mystery of God, to the power of God, because it is evident that God is more powerful, the power of God is greater than our ineptitude, greater than our wickedness.
The mercy of God is greater than sin. This doesn’t mean that God is a liar and says you are good when you are bad. God does not consecrate your goodness when you want something bad; God needs only a lodging point in you, an infinitesimal point of truth on which to build your conversion, with His power. To recreate you! Only the power of God can recreate you, but He needs a point, just one point of truth in you. God cannot build on a lie, and this infinitesimal point of truth in you lies in the sincerity of your entreaty, and that’s all.
Confession is a prayer, so it’s an entreaty, not a fixed program. The only requisite is the sincerity of this entreaty. Can this sincerity not be found even in someone who feels so trapped in a situation that he is sure he will go on doing wrong?! If someone does not go to Confession because he feels trapped in a situation, he makes two grave errors: firstly, he makes his negative situation worse, and gets more bogged down in it; secondly, he distances himself more and more from religion. It is the logical trajectory of sin: instead of remaining an evil act, it becomes a history of evil, and the end of this story is falsehood. You abandon even the truth; you may still attend Church, but you are devoid of any adhesion and acknowledgment.
So, even for someone trapped in such a way that he knows he cannot get out of it, who is sure to go wrong again, what is the last remnant of truth in him? It is that of crying out to God: “God, change me, because I am not able to change myself. Do what You want with me, because I am unable to change myself. In an hour’s time I will go wrong, I will go wrong this evening, I will go wrong tomorrow.” I am not giving you a rule; that is, “Take for granted that you will always go wrong, just cry out to God like this,” because this would not be a sincere cry. The cry is sincere, the entreaty is sincere when someone really cannot do otherwise, is unable to do otherwise; the cry is sincere when someone is striving with all his might to do what he can, even to make a break, if he can. This is not eliminating your collaboration, but a realistic assessment of the situation, of your energy, of your condition.
Remember those pages of Bruce Marshall I always quote at this point–it’s a very acute passage and I think definitive in its clarity. Abbé Gaston, the hero of the book, To Every Man a Penny, has to hear the Confession of a German soldier whom the French partisans have arrested and is to be executed; since he is a Catholic, and all trembling, the partisans allow him to make his confession, though they are Communists. Abbé Gaston says, “Confess yourself well, my boy, because you have to die. So, what have you done?” And, naturally, he says, “Women.” “Now you must repent, because you have to appear before the court of God.” And the other, with some embarrassment, says, “How can I repent? It was something I liked; if I had the chance, I’d do it again now. How can I repent?” So Abbé Gaston, all worried because he couldn’t send that individual to heaven, suddenly has a stroke of genius and says, “But are you sorry you’re not sorry?” and the other says, “Yes, I am sorry I am not sorry.” This is the last remnant of truth in that individual; this is the acknowledgment of the truth. On that infinitesimal point God builds the man’s defence. “Father, they don’t know what they are doing,” after three years of persecution at their hands.
There is no excuse for you, if you don’t go to Confession. You have no excuse, because it’s not what you have done, it’s not your mood, that keeps you away from Confession. Neither of these can keep you away whatever the case, or can give you sufficient reason for keeping away from Confession. Only one thing is keeping you away from Confession: you are being false with yourselves. It is the denial of the “something more;” it is denying God, denying Jesus Christ. It is the other piece of the Gospel we read today, “Night had fallen.” And then perhaps you are at ease, you feel at rights because you accuse Christianity of no longer having reasons to give to support itself. “Night had fallen.”
First of all, it’s a betrayal of yourselves, not of Jesus Christ or God, according to the tradition in which you have been brought up. So, firstly, it’s God and Christ, God and His Revelation, as inscribed in your humanity, in your flesh; it is the “something more” that you are denying. It is lying to yourselves; it is the sin against the truth. This is the radical point. This is what keeps you away from Confession–not desiring the good, not accepting to ask for the good; only this. It is not the fact that you foresee that without a miracle you will go wrong again, because a miracle can happen, and you have to ask for it if you really want the good, if you want the “something more,” if you want to be true. The miracle could happen in twenty years’ time, when your concubine dies. It doesn’t matter. I’m not for one moment encouraging systematic adultery, but I want to center, to focus on the heart of the matter, in its ultimate truth, in its essence.
You stay away from Communion not because of your mood or because you don’t feel like it–so you say it would be hypocrisy. You are hypocrites, not because it would be hypocrisy, but because it is hypocrisy to say no to what is in us, perhaps timid because what is in us is intimidated, fearful because it is afraid, all cloudy and vague, because it has not been nourished and educated by the social climate we are living in, but it is in us. It is because you say no to this “something more,” because you tread this “something more” underfoot, you go on inhibiting the best in yourselves, you do not desire the good, this is why you stay away from Communion. And you are hypocrites when you say, “I stay away because it would be hypocrisy.” Because to go to Communion is a cry, the cry of a poor man, the cry of a wretched man, who no longer understands or feels anything, and so he runs to the power, to the Mystery, to the power that can do everything and will convert him. He runs to that Mystery of God-made-Man, inserted into his life, who has reached him in words and facts through the Mystery of the Church and tells him, “I am here,” and who has changed so many and so can change you, too. A judgment and a desire for good, a cry to the good–this is Communion. It is not a question of mood, a feeling, a pleasure, a diplomatic sincerity.
So, in this sense, in order to rekindle that “something more,” to become men at last, to live humanly, to give our actions the soul that they normally lack, to enlighten and guide our anguish, in order that charity, love, be what guides our life, that our action live more and more consciously in relationship with the great context for which it is born and in which it lives, that our life be Christian, in order to understand what the power of God is, to experience that Christ is true, to experience that the power of God had shown itself among us, I invite you first of all to the encounter with the Sacrament, the encounter with a reality that you cannot perceive if not confusedly, that you cannot understand–it is only, therefore, as a strange corollary of something else that we approach those actions. And it is in living them that they are enlightened and describe more and more clearly to our spirit a methodology of life to apply to all our relationships and in all our actions: to live the Sacrament in life or to make all our relationships Communion. But these are horizons that come later.
The first important thing is to begin. The important thing is to recognize this Presence, to cry to this Presence, because in this Presence is the power of Him who makes all things. Exactly as this power was present on the face of Christ, in the man Christ, the Pharisees got rid of Him exactly as we get rid of the Sacraments from our life, His Presence from our life, His physical Presence. Perhaps we keep it according to a version of our feelings, we reduce it to our feelings, reduce it to our theological theories, reduce it to historical knowledge. Instead, it is a Presence–so difficult to grasp, so transcendent as a reality, so abnormal as a reality, so beyond assimilation, so unknown as a reality. This is Christianity, and understanding and light spring from this.

3. The Sacrament,
the simplest form of prayer

The first way to reawaken and nourish the “something more” in us, that ferment which changes the face of our action, though it is still the same (sweeping the floor is still sweeping the floor, studying is still studying, a doctor’s work is still the same work, loving people is still loving people, raising children is still raising children–it’s not something else, even though the other grows, but it is firstly a novelty inside these things, this “something more” that makes these things “ferment,” opens them up, and you feel a different person, as if born again, as that passage of Péguy we read this morning expressed so well, confirming the concept Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus in Chapter Three of John’s Gospel). The first thing to do is not to study how to change your actions, nor a psychological analysis, nor a spiritual program, no, it is not something we ourselves have to do; the first thing we have to do is pray, we have to ask for this, we have to ask that this conversion happen in us, even if we don’t understand what this conversion means.
What I am striving to communicate is an emphasis, an echo of what I feel, rather than concepts or ideas. It is a feeling I wanted to create yesterday and would like to try to create today. Or, better, the inkling of something that must change, that must change in normal life–in the way we write and the way we eat; in the way we offer our hand to a girl. It is something that must change.
The first thing that can nurture this inkling, make it grow, begin to change you inside and make you feel changed in a short time, is prayer, asking that this happen. It is not setting yourself to do something, but simply asking for it.
The Sacrament is the objective and simplest form of this “asking;” the simplest, because the Sacrament is only an action, you just go to it, whereas prayer implies saying some words, conceiving some concepts, outlining some feelings, finding words, above all.
The Sacrament is the primordial, simplest aspect; it is a silent gesture–in this sense it is pure presence; it is just being there, like someone who is there with someone else and does not know what to say, and is there asking with his presence.
The Sacrament is just being there–this is why Jesus Christ made it obligatory; He did not make the Our Father obligatory. It is your position that does not hold. You can go to Confession and receive Communion just by doing this, by answering something the priest says, that the priest asks with the wisdom that knows man, and that’s it; just by indicating yes or no with the head, it’s enough. And Communion is simply receiving, a pure action, so a peasant or a university professor can do it in the very same way. Of course, prayer is colored by the differences in culture or awareness. In any case, prayer is the basic phenomenon, because even the Sacrament is prayer; it is the simplest form of prayer. And prayer is nothing other than asking for oneself, asking to become oneself, asking to become perfect, to be fulfilled, asking that the “something more” happen, asking to become what you must become, asking for that “essential” that Yevtushenko said to be lacking; asking for freedom, asking for charity, asking for love, for life as love; asking that our heavy and banal action (the normal day-to-day things) be converted. And it is within these banal things that the novelty must happen–in the way you study, the way you sweep the floor or chat face-to-face with your girlfriend, and in the political risk you will have to take on if you want to be complete men, into which charity must most certainly drive you.
So, the first condition is prayer, because renouncing prayer leads to poverty, to pettiness and horror, poverty, and your life becomes like a desert.
Here, too, it’s because you have a strange concept of prayer: you suppose that prayer is identified with a certain feeling you have, whereas it is only a judgment and a rite. The more I feel arid, the more I feel cold, the more far away I feel, the more I feel incapable, the more I feel I don’t know what to say, the more I feel I have no faith, the more I cry out. Even if you should become consciously atheist, you must still pray, “God if you exist, show Yourself to me.”
When you reach this point, then you begin truly to be a man. Short of this, you are a wretched creature, a criminal, and you do harm in everything you do; everything you do is harmful, and you are a mortal danger for anyone you meet, for those who live with you.
On the contrary, with this continuous cry within life, any defect, any vice, any tiredness, any poverty or frailty, any bad habit, becomes goodness–as a destination, according to God’s time, of course, so it will need patience; but there is an immediate change, in your understanding for other men, in your behavior toward other men, and above all in the way you judge them. The first thing that changes in us is the way we judge others. The first thing that happens in us is that strange thing, which is understanding for people; physiologically, your heart opens up, you begin to embrace the other, you understand him, and begin to love him. It is an affirmation of yourself; you begin to realize yourself, even though mechanically the whole list of defects goes on adding up. It’s Christ who has entered into the world, into history, like a seed; and you need really to have betrayed Him to say that in two thousand years He has done nothing. Because it’s enough to follow Him for one yard in order to understand that something changes, is already changing. If you do not experience in yourself what Christ changes, then of course you can say that in two thousand years He has done nothing.
It is a seed He has sown in history and that leavens history according to God’s time and plans. Thus, this cry, which He has placed inside us, this action that translates first of all into Sacrament, and which is expressed in the echo of prayer, is a seed that will change the history of your life according to God’s time and in the way He has planned. And I am quite confident of this, because I cannot presume to dictate my concerns to God. This would, after all, be another surreptitious way of trying to assert myself and of saving myself from humiliation.
To close, I will read you the usual passage, since you never go to reread it.
“One day Jesus was in a place praying [imagine Him there praying and His disciples a short way off, watching Him, because it was quite a sight to see. A man who is fully aware of himself is quite something to see; you can see it physiologically. When a man is fully aware of himself, when he is habitually aware of himself, when a man begins to be stable as a man, he begins to have a fascination that none of us knows among those of our kind, because it is so rare. But the fascination of man begins there. Then you truly begin to understand the dimensions of the spirit, how preponderant and capable of investing matter; then you are transformed–the same physical characteristics, the same biological features are drawn into the power and attraction of this other factor. What will you give to your wives, what will you give to your husbands, or to your children, if you don’t tend, if you don’t ask for this road?] and when He had finished one of the disciples asked him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ And He told them, ‘When you pray, say, “Father, may your name be held holy [‘name,’ in Hebrew, means power–may your power act in the world], your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive our sins, because we forgive all our debtors, and do not lead us into temptation.”’ Then He added, ‘If one of you has a friend and goes to him at night saying, “Friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend has come on a long journey and I have nothing to offer him,” if the one inside answers him, “Don’t disturb me, the door is already shut and my children are in bed with me [at that time there was only one bed], I cannot get up to give it to you,” I tell you that, even if he does not get up and give it to him for friendship’s sake, he will get up to give it to him because of his insistence. Well then, I tell you, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Because he who asks receives, he who seeks finds, he who knocks will have the door opened to him. What father among you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? So if you, who are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give His Holy Spirit to those who ask!’” (Lk 11:1-13).
I would ask you now to spend a quarter of an hour in silence, without a word. During this time, look straight at these things we have been insisting on. I would invite you particularly to fix your attention on a reality that is eminently factual, operative, practical, and evidently human; nothing is human if it is not subtended by an entreaty, the entreaty for “something more,” that is, the awareness of something we don’t yet have in what we do, in what we are. Fix your attention on this–the part of your day, or, better, the part of your usual way of acting must include prayer, must include entreaty; it’s possible to make a habit of this sublime point in which alone the whole stature of your humanity is realized (otherwise, your humanity is affronted, crushed by a strange masochism or sadism–original sin, the Catholic Church calls it). This entreaty must become so much a habit–I usually say–that it is always present; you can be doing everything, but in the corner of your eye the light, the shadow, or the outline of this entreaty is always present. But above all what is needed is that in your day you are able to decide, to cut out a moment in which you try to rediscover yourselves, in which you want to be true, in which you can love the fact that in the distraction of the day there be at least one moment of truth. And this moment of truth is not a confused calling upon a certain thing called God; it is asking for conversion: “Your Kingdom come,” even if you don’t know in detail the factors that make up this event. You will learn.